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William Penn University Return to Campus Update


(OSKALOOSA, Iowa) – Since the onset of COVID-19, the safety of students at William Penn University has been our top priority. Through the generosity of alumni donations, the University purchased three Abbott ID NOW rapid testing machines. This allowed us to do gateway testing for all students as they returned to campus. Our testing began on August 10 as fall athletes arrived. The leadership team at William Penn University has worked tirelessly to create a plan implementing the utmost caution and coordination with Mahaska County Public Health Officials and Mahaska Health Partnership.

“William Penn University has taken a very proactive approach to COVID-19 testing, which has helped their students return to campus safely. We are grateful for their commitment to public health and contact tracing and we’re thankful to have partners like them in our community,” Denyse Gipple, Population Health and Quality Director, Mahaska Health Partnership.

In addition to testing, all individuals are required to wear masks in campus buildings and outside when physical distancing cannot be practiced. Daily health screening questions are also required and campus ID cards are scanned to access all buildings.

As of today, 1125 individuals were tested. There are 30 positive cases, for a positivity rate of 2.66%. A majority of the students testing positive were asymptomatic, affirming the University’s decision to do gateway testing and get in front of any students unknowingly carrying the virus. Abu Ibrahim, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine, is pleased with the process. “Our
students have taken the testing very seriously and have followed safety protocols. It has been a tremendous benefit to have the rapid testing machines on campus and process all students in such an efficient manner.”

Any students testing positive have immediately prompted protocols for isolation, contact tracing, quarantining of contacts, and involvement of Mahaska County Public Health. This has involved many William Penn staff members working diligently to best care for students in a very fluid situation. The rapid testing machines will allow us to continue testing if any student begins to exhibit symptoms or has an exposure to another positive case.

Sam Allen Wright, PhD, Assistant Professor of English has this perspective to share. “As a scholar, I study how American epidemics shape American literature, history, and culture. I’m particularly interested in how the media reports on epidemics and the language we use to describe disease and contagion. I’ve reviewed many college plans for COVID-19 for my own research, and WPU’s plan is among the best I’ve seen. We put the students and the community first by testing our students, monitoring our campus health, and encouraging our students to be strong, conscientious leaders during this hard time. Our plan doesn’t use threatening or terrifying language to scare our students, but instead uses a science-based approach to educate our students about the pandemic and keep them healthy. I’m proud of WPU’s leadership and students for working together to keep us safe on campus.”


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