Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the large gatherings did abide by state guidelines, but they did not. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' July 24 proclamation states gatherings of over 10 people must ensure six-feet distance between each group or individual standing alone. The Daily regrets this error.
The health risk of parties taking place over the weekend was acknowledged by Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen in an email to the community.
Pictures and videos of large gatherings during "801 day," an annual Ames-wide party on the Saturday before school starts, were shared online by students and Ames residents.
Many expressed their frustration with the partygoers' failure to follow safety measures and potentially aiding the spread of COVID-19.
A user in the Ames People Facebook group, Pri Krish, posted a photo of partygoers in close contact with each other not wearing masks.
“We should do something about this,” Krish wrote. “I don’t feel comfortable going back to campus on Monday.”
The state of Iowa currently has no restrictions against large gatherings nor does the city of Ames. There is also no mask mandate in the city or state.
An email sent by President Wintersteen on the first day of fall classes reiterated the values of Cyclones Care, a campaign developed by the university to encourage basic health measures such as wearing a mask on or off campus and social distancing. She also addressed the large gatherings over the weekend.
“Disregarding health and safety measures puts our community at risk and it jeopardizes our chances for successfully completing the semester in November,” Winstersteen wrote.
Dean of Students Sharron Evans and senior vice president Toyia Younger released a statement in response to the weekend's large gatherings, saying disregarding health and safety policies increases the chance classes will move online.
"If students want to complete the fall semester on campus, this disregard must stop," the statement reads.
The university says they will work with community partners to enforce policies for "nuisance parties" if needed, according to the statement.
In a “P.S.” at the bottom of Wintersteen’s email, the “Party Smart” initiative is mentioned, an educational campaign created by the partnership of Student Wellness and the Office of Student Conduct as well as the city of Ames.
The infographic linked in the email lists basic safety procedures for attending college parties, such as keeping noise level down and not consuming alcohol if one is underage, as well as advising partygoers to wear face coverings and listing the risk levels for social gatherings.
Guidelines adapted from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance are listed, stating the highest risk for spread is in large in-person gatherings where, “it is difficult to practice social distancing,” and “attendees are from different geographic areas.”
Wintersteen's email asks for these additional measures to be reviewed — and “taken to heart” — but provides no information on how these guidelines will be enforced.
Current Iowa State University guidelines require face coverings in campus buildings and on-campus property and where physical distancing is not possible, but no guidelines are in place for students and faculty when off campus.
Iowa State University's community guidelines state issues of noncompliance may be reported to the Dean of Students Office. After reporting an issue, the matter is then brought to Sara Kellogg, assistant dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct.
What specific steps or actions are taken in response to issues regarding a student not complying with guidelines remains unclear.
Social distancing and mask wearing was not a priority at Ames parties for the “801 day” weekend.
A YouTube video documenting the events of 801 day in Ames, made for comedic purposes, has hit over 18,000 views since being posted Saturday. Several scenes of partygoers in large groups are featured. When asked about concern for COVID-19, one group of partygoers respond with, “fuck corona,” while another partygoer claims COVID-19 is a hoax.
“I’ve definitely got it today, but you know, that happens,” another partygoer in the video says.
Meanwhile, a group of students wearing masks tells the person behind the camera the large gatherings worry them. Several partygoers are shown putting on masks for the video, one stating she wears it when entering a large party.
A police officer is asked in the video if he has seen much social distancing during the day, and replies with “no.”