Health Advisories

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

COVID-19 image

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Luther College will deliver coursework remotely for the Spring 2020 semester. Please consult our recent communication for complete details.

This situation continues to evolve and we will provide updates to the community as needed.

About Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) virus, and we are learning more about it every day. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. At this point, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes it. Stopping transmission (spread) of the virus through everyday practices is the best way to keep people healthy.

Visit the CDC website to learn how the virus spreads, its symptoms, prevention and treatment, what to do if you think you're sick, and other related information.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

How can you protect yourself?

According to the CDC, there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
What should you do if you exhibit symptoms of the virus?

Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread. Please call and share with your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact. Your healthcare professional will work with our state and local health departments and the CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19. You can consult with a nurse at Student Health Service by calling 563-387-1045 during office hours of M-F 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. You may also call the Gundersen Telephone Nurse Advisor 24-Hour line at 608-775-4454. If after hours or on weekends please call Winneshiek Medical Center Urgent Care /Emergency Services 563-382-2911.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the CDC, the virus can lead to fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Because these symptoms can also be caused by other types of illnesses, you should immediately contact your healthcare provider for guidance. You can use the CDC's Coronavirus Self-Checker to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

Are there confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus?

The first confirmed case in the Luther College community was reported on May 18, when an employee notified the college that they received test results confirming a diagnosis of COVID-19. In response to this notification, Facilities Services thoroughly cleaned the employee’s workspace and surrounding areas, including restrooms, in accordance with protocols developed by the Emergency Response Team and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Facilities Services will continue to spend additional time cleaning touchpoints across campus. Luther College limits information shared about individual cases because the sharing of health information is strictly limited by federal law.

Luther College Preparedness

What is Luther College doing to ensure the safety of its students?

Luther College is actively preparing for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 and working to prevent its potential spread in our community. In advance of the anticipated H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, Luther formed an Emergency Response Team (ERT) and a Pandemic Preparation Plan. Corey Landstrom, vice president and dean for student life, leads the ERT that includes representatives from Campus Safety and Security, Communications, Facilities Services, Information and Technology Services, Residence Life, Student Life, Academic Affairs, Dining Services and Health Services.

Other offices may be brought in as needed. The ERT remains in regular contact with the Iowa Department of Public Health and Winneshiek County Public Health and is meeting weekly in response to the COVID-19 outbreak to adapt and activate the Pandemic Preparation Plan and to ensure that we are prepared as a campus community. If the situation warrants it, the ERT will increase the frequency of its meetings. The ERT will provide updates as necessary to the campus community, Decorah community and local media.

Campus and Facilities

When can students retrieve their belongings from the residence halls?

Later this week, the college will begin the process of inviting students back to campus to retrieve their belongings from residence halls. In accordance with directives issued by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and in consultation with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Winneshiek County Public Health, we are only able to allow ten individuals (five students and one family member each) into a residence hall at a time. Consequently, this will be a slow, on-going process. We continue to partner with the IDPH and Winneshiek County Public Health and monitor the guidance set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and neighboring state governments so that we may welcome students safely to campus as soon as possible.

We will begin with students from the local area and then expand to other counties in Northeast Iowa that have reported low case numbers of COVID-19. We hope to continue to expand out to other locations shortly thereafter, taking into account considerations for personal and community safety and shelter-in-place directives issued by state governments.

The Residence Life Office will contact students through their Luther College email with return date and time options. Families who are invited back to campus are expected to follow certain guidelines for their safety and the safety of our local community. Due to the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus and our desire to protect our local community, please be advised that students returning to campus without permission will not be allowed access to the residence halls; they will also receive noncompliance charges that will result in fines.

If you are not from Northeast Iowa, we ask that you be patient and watch for future communications. If you cannot return to campus because you live 500 or more miles away from campus, we will work with our custodial staff to pack your belongings and move them to your fall room assignment; this will be done later in the process and only with the permission of the student. Students in the latter category will be able to sign up through a Google form that we expect to be available in May; the link to the form will be provided in a future update.

Thank you for your understanding and patience. We encourage you to contact the Residence Life Office (563-387-1330; [email protected]) if you have questions regarding the process.

What should I do if I took my belongings home at break and still have my room key?

We are aware that some students did take all of their belongings home at the start of spring break. If you still have your room key, but took all of your belongings, please mail your key back to campus. You may also include other keys that you have from campus. Please place the key(s) in tissue paper and label it with your name, hall and room number. A padded envelope (bubble wrap integrated into the envelope) must be used. Do not use a regular envelope, as the key will break through and become lost in the mail. Keys can be sent to the following address:

Luther College Residence Life Office
700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101

Is Luther College able to mail me my belongings?

At this time, Luther will not be mailing personal belongings back to your permanent residence or any other location. We will continue to mail medications home as needed with assistance from our campus health center; if you need to have your prescriptions transferred from Luther, please call Student Health Services (563-387-1045). We will also work with students who may have rental books in their rooms that need to be returned to the Luther College Book Shop and the student is not able to return to campus before the due date. If you need assistance with either of these situations, please email the Residence Life Office ([email protected]).

What if I need to be on campus this summer?

As indicated in the update sent from President Ward, summer research students will only be allowed to work remotely and will not be allowed to live in residence halls. The college will soon be making further decisions about summer employment and housing. Please check your Luther College email for more information.

Will I have access to gather my belongings from my locker?

Students who are approved to return to campus to gather belongings will also have access to their music and athletic locker on the weekdays. We understand that some students also have items in the Center for the Arts.

Students with athletic lockers will have their student ID activated for the Regents Center on the day they return to campus. All workout facilities will be locked. Students will be expected to go to the locker room and gather their items and then depart the facility.

Students with items in Jenson-Noble Hall of Music may enter the building and gather items from their lockers. All students who are members of one of the choral ensembles at Luther College should drop off their choir folders and all its contents into one of the plastic bins that will be located in the main hallway of Jenson-Noble. Please be sure your folder is clearly marked with your name (a piece of paper inside). Any music not returned while you are on campus to retrieve your belongings will need to be sent (via US Postal Service) to the Music Department before July 1.

Students picking up items from the Center for the Arts are asked to use the front entrance and go directly to pick up materials in studios and dressing rooms. Due to limited staff on the weekends, the Center for the Arts will be open only on weekdays.

Do I need to wear a face mask on campus?

Beginning immediately, all employees on campus are strongly encouraged to wear face masks while on campus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas experiencing significant community-based transmission. Mayor Lorraine Borowski is also urging residents of Decorah to wear face masks when leaving their homes. Employees and students residing on campus who need a free cloth face mask should contact Facilities Services at 563-387-1146. Facilities Services is coordinating the production of face masks with the support of the staff in the CFA costume shop.

Will campus remain open during the distance learning period?

Campus buildings will be closed to visitors and the general public. Staff and faculty with outside entrance keys/card access will still have access to buildings. Faculty who will be using academic building classrooms to deliver courses by distance learning should be able to access their buildings and classrooms. Dining Services has announced a modified food service schedule.

Are campus events canceled?

Campus events are canceled beginning Monday, March 16 and continuing through at least Thursday, May 21. Large, dense crowds create an increased risk of viral transmission that places the most vulnerable members of our campus and local communities in jeopardy. The college and public health agencies may cancel campus events altogether at any time at their discretion. Visit luther.edu/events to check the status of events.

Summer Camps and Conferences

Given the ongoing restrictions on travel, guidelines for social distancing, and the increased liability of minors on campus during a pandemic, all summer camps and conferences scheduled for June have regrettably been canceled. The Campus Programming Office will be in contact with all camp and conference directors to explore possibilities for rescheduling at a later date and/or mechanisms for refunding deposits to registrants. Decisions regarding camps and conferences scheduled for July will be made soon.

What changes are there to campus facilities hours of operation?

Starting Friday, March 20, campus buildings will be closed to visitors and the general public. Staff and faculty with outside entrance keys/card access will still have access to buildings. Faculty who will be using academic building classrooms to deliver courses by distance learning should be able to access their buildings and classrooms.

Dining Services has announced the following new procedures for food service on campus:

  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be available in a grab-and-go format with limited menu choices: Breakfast: 8 a.m.-9 a.m., Lunch: 12 p.m.-1 p.m., Dinner: 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
  • The Cafeteria will not be available for seating
  • The Grab-N-Go Window will be the only pick up location
  • Oneota Market and Nordic Brew is closed

These times and location are subject to change due to traffic counts and other factors.

Classes and Academics

Will classes be on-campus for the 2020-21 academic year?

A revised academic calendar will be implemented for the 2020-21 academic year. To view more details please visit the 2020-21 academic calendar page.

If you have any questions, please contact the Registrar’s Office ([email protected]; 563-387-1167).

How do I return my rental books?

If you have spring 2020 rental books that you no longer need, you should plan to return the rental book/s the same day you are on campus to retrieve your personal belongings. The Luther College Book Shop is currently not open to walk-in traffic. Therefore, rental books should be placed in the book deposit area in the entryway of the Preus Library. If you still need to use your rental books, they may be returned at a later time to be designated by the Book Shop. Questions regarding rental return may be sent to [email protected].

Important: Please read any emails you receive from the Book Shop as they will contain important information and/or changes in regard to your rental returns.

What should I do if I have books from the library?

Items you have checked out from the library and interlibrary loans that you no longer need should be returned while you are on campus. They may be placed in the book deposit area in the entryway of the library. Items you still need may be retained and returned at a later time. Questions regarding library materials can be sent to [email protected]; questions about interlibrary loans can be sent to [email protected].

Can students complete the semester from home?

Yes. The period of distance learning has been extended through the remainder of the spring semester. Beginning Monday, March 30, and continuing through Thursday, May 21, all courses at Luther College will be held in distance learning formats and with alternative assignments. Students will not return to campus this semester to complete courses.

What does my upcoming academic calendar look like?

Luther's academic calendar will follow the below schedule:

  • March 18-20: Classes canceled
  • March 21-29: Spring break
  • March 30-April 9: Distance learning
  • April 10-13: Easter vacation
  • April 14-May 21: Distance learning

Rochester Semester

Due to the difficulties created by the pandemic in identifying internship sponsors, the Rochester Semester is canceled for the Fall 2020 Semester. The Rochester Semester program will resume in January 2021. This decision does not affect Luther College’s clinical year program at the Mayo Clinic for nursing students.

Summer Session I Courses

All courses for Summer Session I will be offered in a distance learning format. The Dean’s Office will contact all instructors scheduled to teach during the session with further information and resources. Students should contact the Registrar’s Office (563-387-1187; [email protected]) with any questions or concerns.

Summer Collaborative Research Projects

Summer collaborative research projects that may be performed remotely will be allowed to proceed. Summer research students may not live in the residence halls and will have limited access to buildings on campus. Projects for this summer have not yet been chosen. The Dean’s Office will contact all student-faculty teams that submitted applications with further details.

Travel and Study Abroad

Is it okay to travel?

All college-sponsored travel is prohibited through at least Sunday, May 31. No travel should be scheduled or booked, even for after May 31, unless approved by a supervisor.

In addition, Luther College will not operate any international programs for Summer 2020 nor approve students to participate in international Partner Programs, independent experiences, or internships through the end of August 2020. If conditions warrant, this date may be extended later into the fall semester.

As of March 19, the U.S. State Department advised against all international travel due to the impact of COVID-19. No time frame has been given regarding when the “no travel” advisory will be modified. Luther College defers to the authority and guidelines of the U.S. State Department, the Iowa Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to keep the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff paramount.

In addition, we strongly believe that travel is reciprocal in nature. Travelers from Luther College have the responsibility of making decisions that help to protect the health of the communities in which we have a presence, and our precautions are designed to help protect those around us, some of whom are vulnerable due to factors such as age and pre-existing health conditions. Further, the college can neither control the conditions at potential destinations nor safely address a situation where a traveler begins to exhibit symptoms during the course of travel.

Can I visit the Luther College campus?

The Admissions Office is offering an alternative visit schedule from March 17 to May 27. Individual and group visits will not be scheduled during this time. Please call the Admissions Office at 563-387-1289 to speak with a college counselor about any questions you may have.

Resources and Support

What financial relief programs are available for students?

A team of staff from Financial Aid and Financial Services are working closely with our consortial and professional networks to understand and expedite the distribution of the emergency financial aid that the CARES Act provides for students. This aid will total $690,342 and will be disbursed directly to students as soon as possible after the funds are made available to Luther College by the federal government, and within the parameters it sets. Per the guidance from the Department of Education, students with greater financial need will receive more emergency financial aid; the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculated as a part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will provide the baseline for this calculation.

How do I take care of my behavioral health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

People who already are managing existing mental health conditions should prioritize self-care during difficult times and should contact their clinicians if they have questions or concerns. To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Text “START” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

Additional resources include articles and videos on:

News and Communications

May 21, 2020 (Message to Luther Students on Further Details on the 2020-21 Academic Calendar)

May 13, 2020 (Message to Luther Students and Parents on the 2020-21 Academic Calendar)

April 30, 2020 (Message to Luther Community on the 2020-21 Academic Year)

April 24, 2020 (Message to Luther Community on Commencement for the Class of 2020)

April 21, 2020 (Message to Luther Community on April COVID-19 Update)

April 20, 2020 (A Personal Message from President Ward to Luther College Students)

April 9, 2020 (A Personal Message from President Ward to Luther College Students and Parents)

April 3, 2020 (Message to Luther Students and Parents on Updates to Academic Policies)

April 3, 2020 (Message to Luther Students on Student Senate Elections and Community Building)

April 1, 2020 (Message to Luther Staff and Faculty on Staff Employment and Meal Benefit)

March 31, 2020 (Message to Luther Students and Parents on Prorated Room and Board Credits/Refunds, Federal Work-Study, and the CARES Act)

March 31, 2020 (Message to Luther Students, Faculty, Staff, and Parents on Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and J-Term 2021 International Programs)

March 29, 2020 (Message to Luther Students, Faculty, and Staff)

March 20, 2020 (Message to Luther Community on Extension of Distance Learning Period)

March 17, 2020 (Message to Luther Community Regarding COVID-19 update on Regents Center and Dining Services)

March 15, 2020 (Message to Luther Community Regarding COVID-19 update on class cancellation and Nottingham program)

March 12, 2020 (Message to Luther Community Regarding Plans for Spring Break, Distance Learning, College-Sponsored Travel, and Campus Events)

March 12, 2020 (Message to Luther Community Regarding COVID-19 Update on International Programs)

March 10, 2020 (Message to Luther Community on COVID-19 Update for Travel through the Spring 2020 Semester and Summer 2020 International Programs)

March 9, 2020 (Message to Students on Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in Iowa)

March 6, 2020 (Message to Students on Spring 2020 International Study Away Programs from President Jenifer K. Ward)

March 2, 2020 (Message to Luther Community from President Jenifer K. Ward)

January 29, 2020 (Message to Luther Community  from Vice President and Dean for Student Life, Corey Landstrom)

What to do if you're experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19:

Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread. You can use the CDC's Coronavirus Self-Checker to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.

Tell your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.