Photo Courtesy of Luther College Photo Bureau
On February 23, the COVID-19 Alert Level for Luther College officially decreased to Level one from Level two, bringing all residence halls’ policy from phase one to phase two. This decrease indicates a lessened threat of COVID-19 on campus, and allows students to visit residence halls other than their own during visiting hours.
Larsen and Olson Area Coordinator Chris Lovagnini shared his thoughts about the change in guest/visitor policy and the factors leading up to the decision to make that change.
“I think we had a lot of months where people had this phase one kind of looming over them,” Lovagnini said. “Even though it takes a lot of mental effort, people were able to commit and kind of maintain those best practices– I think that is the main reason why we can shift to a better place.”
Many of the restrictions in place during phase one remain in phase two. This includes the restrictions on off-campus visitors or overnight guests within the residence halls, room capacity limits, and continued practice of social distancing and mask-wearing. According to Lovagnini, students were incentivized to follow COVID-19 policies after the last introduction of phase two, which lasted less than 24 hours.
“[Between the two phases] it’s not a big change on paper,” Lovagnini said. “With the whole list [of rules], we have only one line changed between the two. But I think that line change is significant for all the people who were trying their best and now they get a bit of reward. Hopefully, that will encourage them to do the best they can”.
Isaac Woods (‘22) was grateful for the decreased alert level and the community bonding that has been able to take place because of it.
“For our building, there are a lot of athletes,” Woods said. “Now they’re able to visit other dorms to hang out with their teammates without having to break COVID policies. That’s good for team bonding.”
Tala Nengola (‘23) anticipated challenges regarding the ability to figure out people’s identity getting in and out of the buildings. Difficulty in differentiating between Luther students and people coming from off-campus may develop as more traffic occurs in the residence halls in some instances. Nengola worries about this an a potential rise in incidents as residence halls’ foot traffic increases.
“I know the number of incidents we have to deal with will go up in phase two,” Nengola said. “I’m a little concerned about the number of people who will be in and out of the building and having to interact with students that I don’t know. That seems pretty stressful. But because I’m an RA in a first-year building, I don’t live with my peers so it’s very beneficial to me because I can visit my friends.”
Interim SAC Program Coordinator and Dieseth Hall Manager Lukas Phillips (‘18) fears residents might not follow room capacity guidelines as more students are allowed to visit each building.
“In some ways, I do wonder if as time goes on, students get comfortable, that this might make the enforcement of the capacity of the room a bit harder,” Phillips said. “We will do our best to address and remind students when they’re not abiding by those policies. I think ultimately, just continuing to educate and model behaviors that are healthy like that is key.”
Lovagnini hoped the change in alert level would not affect students’ vigilance in following COVID-19 guidelines.
“We hope that all of the people that are trying their best and doing the smart practices don’t immediately use this little bit of good news to make a lot of questionable decisions. Then we get right back to where we started,” Lovagnini said. “Unfortunately, there’s no way we can’t jump to phase two — which would be the most normal — but we can continue to fall in that direction if people continue to follow the policies.”
In order to keep everyone safe amidst the ongoing pandemic, students are encouraged to do their part to ensure that Luther keep the virus out of its community. Nengola shared her thoughts and offered some reminders for students.
“It’s important that students realize that with the rules being a little more relaxed comes the little more of personal responsibility, and I hope that they take that seriously,” Nengola said. “I really do think if we are working in the community, everyone needs to take on their responsibilities and understand that their own actions affect people around them a lot more than they think. That’s something that exists whether there are protocols or not.”
In response to the change in guest/visitor policy from phase two to phase one, Lovagnini expressed his appreciation for Luther students’ collective efforts and positive attitudes.
“Thank you for everything so far,” Lovagnini said. “Luther students have been doing a really good job, especially compared to what we’ve seen at other places around the country, around the world. There’s no immediate award or recognition when you wear masks or sanitize your hands, but it still makes a huge difference. We could make a hundred policies about a hundred different things but they wouldn’t matter if students didn’t care about each other like they do.”