By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Under normal circumstances, Karin Jagnow is usually easy to find.
Just go to a University of Iowa sporting event and chances are the 83-year old Jagnow will be in the stands cheering on her beloved Hawkeyes.
And she’s not just devoted to the high-profile sports like football and men’s basketball. She is loyal to and interested in every sports team at Iowa, men and women.
She usually sits below the press box for Iowa baseball games at Duane Banks Field, and Mother Nature doesn’t stand a chance against Karin Jagnow.
For the early games in March when temperatures can dip into the 30s, she’ll bundle up from head to toe and watch from start to finish, her interest and focus never wavers.
Karin Jagnow has a beautiful relationship with Hawkeye athletics, a relationship that has spanned most of her life.
So the past 18 months, obviously, has been extremely hard for Jagnow to endure because the Covid-19 global pandemic took away something that is dear to her heart.
And then to make matters worse, she was recently diagnosed with Covid-19 in late July and believes she became infected while attending a Cleveland Indians baseball game with her brother, who lives in Ohio.
Already vulnerable due to her age, and because she had polio as a child, Jagnow is so grateful to have been vaccinated when the virus struck.
“If I hadn’t been vaccinated it would have killed me because I have respiratory problems already from polio,” Jagnow said. “And I’m older than dirt.”
Jagnow left her brother’s house the day after the baseball game on July 26 and felt fine. But then her brother called the next day saying that he had tested positive for Covid-19.
“I left there on a Monday and he had packed me a lunch and hugged me goodbye and said, ‘okay, we’ll see you later on,’ because they were going to come down here and go see my other brother,” Jagnow said. “And I said, ‘okay, we’ll see you.’ And then I drove away.
“Well, then the next day he called and said that night he felt sick and that maybe I should find out if I’m okay because he went in and tested and he was positive for Covid. But now his wife tested negative and she never did get it.”
Jagnow said she started feeling ill the next day with what she described as a terrible headache and muscle aches. She had a runny nose and became congested.
She also dealt with fatigue, and it lasted longer than the other symptoms.
“It really makes you tired quite a bit afterwards,” Jagnow said of the virus.
Her doctor then gave her a supplement designed to combat the effects of Covid, and shortly thereafter, she started feeling better.
“It just cleared me right up right away,” Jagnow said.
Neither Jagnow nor her brother wore a mask during the Cleveland Indians baseball game, or during the fireworks display afterwards. Masks weren’t being enforced and Jagnow figured she was safe from having been vaccinated.
She and her brother also sat in a section with few fans.
But when the fireworks started going off, the fans crunched together and that’s when Jagnow thinks that she and her brother were infected.
“We had good seats and we weren’t around a lot of people,” Jagnow said. “But when they had fireworks everybody crowded in and then you had a whole mess of people all crunched in together and then it took about a half an hour of fireworks. And probably, we should’ve worn masks, but we didn’t think about it.”
Jagnow asked her brother before the game about wearing a mask, but since it wasn’t being enforced, and with them both vaccinated, they chose not to wear a mask.
“I never thought anything about it,” Jagnow said. “I asked my brother if we had to wear masks, but he said at the beginning when they had their first Cleveland games they had to.
“But they said we didn’t have to. So we didn’t think anything of it. We just enjoyed ourselves. We were both vaccinated. Yeah, we’re secure. We’re vaccinated. No big deal.”
Fortunately, it didn’t become a big deal.
Jagnow and her brother both dealt with some bad symptoms, but neither of them became seriously ill to where they had to be hospitalized, or put on a ventilator.
And that’s how vaccines work.
Vaccines don’t prevent the virus from spreading, but in most cases they prevent it from making people seriously ill, or worse. And Jagnow’s recovery is a perfect example.
However, much to Jagnow’s dismay, there are millions of people in the United States who refuse to get vaccinated for reasons that include religious beliefs, fear, and politics.
And now with the highly contagious Delta variant spreading in multiple states, Jagnow is worried about what lies ahead. She fears that the situation will only get worse, and it upsets her.
“My message is get yourself vaccinated and quit putting this off and think you’re going to be okay,” said Jagnow, who moved to Iowa City when she was 8 years old after living in northwest Iowa. “You don’t know where this Covid is. And people can be perfectly fine, your own friends could be perfectly fine, but they may be carrying it.”
Jagnow, a former teacher whose husband passed away in 2015, said her son is reluctant to have her near his two grandchildren, ages seven and 11, because of health concerns since both kids are too young to get vaccinated.
The fact that the vaccines have become politically divisive is upsetting and confusing to Jagnow.
“I makes you disgusted because when we had polio and said to get shots, people were going in and getting shots,” Jagnow said. “They weren’t sitting there and saying, ‘well, let me see, I’m a Democrat, I better get shots. I’m a Republican, I better not.’ They didn’t say that. They just went in and got shots and then polio kind of disappeared. It started to come back when some people were failing to pick up on booster shots and things like that. But it wasn’t a big deal.
“Nowadays making something that’s healthy political is ridiculous because that’s not the way the virus works. It doesn’t say, we’re only going to give Republicans this disease, or we’re only going to give it to Democrats. It doesn’t work that way.”
The Iowa athletic Department announced earlier in the summer that it expects to have full capacity seating for sporting events beginning with the fall sports.
The announcement came before the Delta variant started spreading, but the decision to allow full capacity seating still stands.
Jagnow has season tickets for football and is eager to get back in the stands, because for Jagnow, watching the Hawkeyes in person is pure joy, and one of her favorites thing to do.
She cherishes being in the stands, and enjoys getting to know the student-athletes.
Jagnow used to help keep score for the Prime Time League, and that’s when she became acquainted with former Iowa basketball star Luka Garza, who was just recently selected in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons.
But then the Prime Time League shutdown in 2018, and that was a sad moment for Jagnow.
The past 18 months also has been excruciating for Jagnow, who looks forward to watching Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark in person for the first time this coming winter.
“It was different because you didn’t get to get into the excitement of what it normally is and you didn’t get into the tailgating and going over and not being able to see Luka Garza shoot,” Jagnow said of the 2020-21 sports season in which most fans were prohibited from attending games. “I always sit at the games and keep score, same way with Caitlin. Listening to it is one thing, but going there is a totally different story.
“I got to know Luka when we had Prime Time because we had him sitting next to us running the 30-second clock. I miss that, too, Prime Time, because I got to know a lot of the players.”
Jagnow attended the Kids Day practice this past Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, and wore a mask, as did some other fans in attendance.
“I would say the majority were not wearing a mask,” Jagnow said. “But there were a bunch of people there wearing masks, and they had their kids wearing masks.”
Jagnow, who lives in North Liberty, said she will wear a mask to all of the Iowa football games this fall, and she feels safe for the most part.
“I feel I’ve been vaccinated, I had it once. I will be wearing a mask. I should be okay,” Jagnow said.
She is more concerned about what could happen with watching sporting events in person if the Delta variant continues to spread. Jagnow fears a repeat of last season.
The University of Iowa is the only Big Ten school that doesn’t require mask wearing.
“I think if they don’t start getting these people in there and vaccinated and doing better, we’re going to go right back to where we were at the start,” Jagnow said. “I have a feeling if we don’t do something, we’re going to start getting games canceled and that’s going to be a bad shame.
“You pay money for tickets to a ball game and then it’ll be canceled if this Covid just doesn’t stop because it seems that we were getting on a plateau, and now we’re going up the mountain again.”