Northwest Iowa Community College

Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon ended its mask mandate on May 17, three days ahead of Gov. Kim Reynolds signing a law prohibiting public entities to create coronavirus restrictions. The NCC trustees approved the policy on May 24.

SHELDON—Northwest Iowa Community College unmasked its new coronavirus policies after guidance from its COVID Committee in Sheldon and state law from Des Moines.

The board of trustees signed off on the new rules Monday, May 24, highlighted by the repeal of a facial covering requirement for students, staff and visitors.

State lawmakers banned public entities from enforcing mask mandates on May 20. The NCC policy went into effect three days prior, something human resources director Renee Carlson said was in the works for a while.

“The decision to no longer require facial coverings on campus was influenced by the availability of the vaccine within the community, as well as guidance from the CDC, IDPH and local public health officials,” Carlson told The REVIEW.

Student and academic services vice president John Hartog — who is taking over as NCC president at the end of June — asked the board to “give its blessing” on the policy during its monthly meeting.

“We understand and would support the fact that there are those individuals who would continue to wear those facial coverings,” Hartog said. “And also, we have a college-approved sign that some may need to put outside of their offices because they may be immunocompromised, asking for visitors into their working space to be wearing facial coverings.”

The incoming president also noted that it is within the realm of possibility that the pandemic could worsen. The colder, more indoor-inclined winter could lead to a reemergence of COVID-19, Hartog said.

With that in mind, he said, the COVID Committee’s guidance is only effective through the summer term, which started May 17 and will end Aug. 15.

“These procedures are always open to further examination,” Hartog said.

It is unclear if NCC has the legal authority to reintroduce any coronavirus-related procedures after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the mask mandate preemption law.

Carlson said the college will keep epidemiological experts in the loop for future safety rule making.

“NCC will continue to consider the guidance of public health in making decisions regarding COVID-19,” the human resources director said.

Hartog “happily” reported that it appears the pandemic is subsiding.

“The numbers are very good and we have so much to be thankful for at this point in the pandemic,” he told the board. “We’ve come through quite a set of 14 or so months.”