July 23, 2020 at 7:49 p.m.
To St. Olaf College faculty and staffFrom Enoch Blazis, Campus Reopening Lead | Vice President – Advancement
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Campus Vendor Partners,
As many of you make plans to return to work on campus and we prepare to welcome students back in August, I have an important update on some key areas: COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine plans and protocols at the College.
We have a process in place to test all students, faculty, staff, and campus vendor partners (e.g., Bon Appetit and Barnes & Noble staff) for COVID-19. We will conduct a first round of tests for faculty, staff, and vendor partners from August 4-6, followed 15 days later by a second round of testing. This will help us establish our baseline for the fall semester. Students will be tested within 24 hours of their arrival on campus, followed by a second round 15 days later. From there we plan to do random sampling testing, equivalent to 2 percent of our population, every week through the rest of the semester. Randomized testing reduces the chances of an outbreak by testing asymptomatic individuals who wouldn’t otherwise know they are infected. The College will cover the costs of testing.
The only persons who need to be tested are those who will be returning to campus during the first semester. If you have arranged for accommodations so that you will be teaching or working remotely and you will not be setting foot on campus for the first three weeks of the semester, you do not need to be tested. However, those employees off-campus for the semester who desire a test are welcome to have one.
Please use this link to sign up for your testing time slot, taking time to provide your cell phone number. Cell phones will be used to send appointment reminders and to share test results quickly. It is critical that we get everyone tested as soon as possible, so please make sure that you make it to your test appointment. Delays in the completion of testing will delay our ability to loosen the restrictions that we will need to have in place until the initial testing is done.
We have partnered with Mayo Clinic and will be using Mayo’s PCR nasal swab. The swab will be administered by a healthcare professional and a sample will be gently taken from your nasal cavity. That means we’re using short swabs, not the long version that goes into your sinus cavity. We will be conducting the test in Skoglund Gymnasium. We anticipate the testing process to take between 15 and 30 minutes.
Mayo has told us that we can expect results between 48-72 hours after they receive a sample in the lab. We will be concentrating on informing anyone who tests positive first, so that those who test positive can quickly move into isolation. If your test is positive, we will be calling you directly to work through next steps. If your test is negative, you will receive an email letting you know.
It’s important to note that testing is not optional. All students, faculty, staff, and campus vendor partners returning to campus must be tested. Even if you have been tested before or have tested positive for antibodies, you must participate in the College’s baseline testing process in order to return to campus.
Isolation and Quarantine
Isolation and quarantine are terms that we have been hearing since the pandemic arrived in the U.S. Isolation separates people who test positive for COVID-19 from people who are not sick in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people when it’s suspected that they have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
During the initial baseline testing period, all students will be expected to quarantine on campus. From the time they arrive to the time we receive results from the second round of testing, we will require students to stay on campus and to remain within their residence hall “family,” limiting themselves to class, meals, and other essential activities. We will require students living off campus to limit their activities to their residence and campus.
Faculty, staff, and campus vendor partners who test positive will be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days. Students who test positive will be isolated for a minimum of 10 days in a space on campus designated for this purpose. They will have their meals delivered to them, and we will assist them in making arrangements with professors to address the completion of course work. Students may self-isolate at their home if they are within regional driving distance (2-3 hours) and if their family composition and home layout are conducive to isolation.
Those in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be required to quarantine for two weeks. For employees, we require that you self-quarantine. Students can quarantine within their room on campus (if their roommate is also quarantining), a designated space on campus, or at their home (if, as stated above, it is within regional driving distance and their family composition and home layout are conducive to quarantine). Close contact is defined by the Minnesota Department of Health as contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within six feet for more than 15 minutes.
Once a minimum of 10 days of isolation is completed and the individual is symptom free and has gone 24 hours without a fever without the use of medication, they may request to be moved out of isolation.
Contact Tracing at the College
Contact tracing is a key strategy for the prevention of further spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is the primary source of contact tracing for the state. St. Olaf will also have its own ability to contact trace cases within the College community (students, faculty, and staff) in collaboration with MDH. We will have a team of trained St. Olaf staff members whose top priority will be the confidentiality of students, faculty, and staff as they work with those who test positive (or who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive) and guide them through the process of isolation and/or quarantine. This will include working closely with campus partners in directing students to resources needed (while in isolation/quarantine) such as meals and making arrangements with professors to address the completion of course work.
More comprehensive information on the specifics of how Contact Tracing will work at St. Olaf will be sent to you in the coming weeks.
We as an institution are committed to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. We all have been hard at work preparing the campus for our students’ return so that physical distancing can be supported and appropriate COVID-19 mitigation can be followed. As the fall semester begins, everyone will need to play their part as outlined in our Community Standards .
If you have additional questions, we recommend reviewing the COVID-19 FAQ page.
Thank you in advance for your patience and for the care you are showing our students and each other.
All the best,