Grand View student tests positive for COVID-19 after working at orientation meeting

Grand View University is a small private school in northeast Des Moines. (Photo courtesy of Grand View University)

A Grand View University student leader who worked Tuesday during an orientation for first-year students has been confirmed to have COVID-19, a university vice president said. 

Kendall Dillon, Grand View’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the student wore a mask during the orientation, which was the first event held on campus since in-person classes were suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The risk was also minimized because only 20 of the 60 students attending orientation were at the station at the campus business building where the infected student was working.

The sessions had been split to help protect students from the spread of the virus.

The student, who had no symptoms, had been tested after an apartment roommate tested positive for COVID-19. 

University officials notified students and families who attended the orientation of the positive test, Dillon said.

Dillon did not identify the student for privacy reasons. The student is in isolation according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol. 

Dillon said the student confirmed to have COVID-19 this week was the university’s first to contract the illness in an event involving the public or outside groups. She said “a few” athletes had COVID earlier and have since recovered.

Only one staff member, who was working at home at the time, had confirmed having the virus. Dillon said no faculty members had reported having the virus, but “people don’t always self-report.”

Dillon said Wednesday’s orientation for transfer students was postponed so crews could clean campus buildings. 

Summer classes have been held online.

Plans for the fall semester won’t change. Students attending the fall semester, which begins Aug. 24, will have their choice between attending in person or watching a livestream or recording of each class. 

The university is making plans to ensure social distancing and other precautions to prevent virus transission. Dillon said the school’s average class size of 16 will make that easier. Many students will want to attend in person to take advantage of small-school access to professors and other resources. 

The dining hall was closed this summer, but will open with a grab-and-go system or other non-buffet offerings, Dillon said. The school contracts with Aramark for dining services.

Grand View has had 150 students on campus for summer classes, Dillon said. About 800 of its 1,800 students live on campus in dorms or apartments for the fall and spring semesters.

While many staff and faculty members have worked at home since mid-March, a small crew that included President Kent Henning has been on campus, Dillon said.

Perry Beeman
Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.