July 23, 2020 at 8:01 p.m.
To St. Olaf College faculty and staffFrom Enoch Blazis, Campus Reopening Lead | Vice President – Advancement
We are eager to welcome you back to the Hill in August. I’m sending you an important update on some key areas: COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine plans and protocols at the College.
You received an email from Residence Life on July 6 about selecting a move-in time. We have a process in place to test you for COVID-19 within 24 hours of your campus arrival, and you will be assigned a test time based on your move-in slot. We will be testing from Noon until 8 p.m. on August 15-20; those moving in after 8 p.m. will be tested the following day. Faculty, staff, and the small number of students who remained on campus over the summer will be tested a few days prior to this. RAs and JCs will be tested on August 9.
You will receive an email in early August with your test time and more details on what to expect during the testing process. 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 health care 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.
Testing will be conducted in the air-conditioned Skoglund Gymnasium. We anticipate having results in 48-72 hours from Mayo and will be concentrating on informing anyone who tests positive first so they can be isolated. 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.
We will be conducting a second round of tests beginning the 15th day after your first test. This second round of testing will complete the “baseline” testing for fall semester. The College will cover the costs of testing.
It’s important to note that testing is not optional. All students, faculty, and staff 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.
We will also continue to conduct ongoing, randomized testing throughout the semester. Each week we plan to test 2 percent of the College’s students, faculty, and staff. You may receive an email at some point asking you to participate in one of these tests. Randomized testing reduces the chances of an outbreak by testing asymptomatic individuals who wouldn’t otherwise know they are infected. The College will also cover the costs of these tests.
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 you arrive to the time we receive the results from the second round of testing, you will need to stay on campus and remain within your residence hall “family,” limiting yourself to attending class, meals, and other essential activities. Students living off campus will need to limit their activities to their residence and campus. During this time, it is critical that you adhere strictly to the prevention measures (e.g., physical distancing, face coverings, etc.) outlined in our Community Standards. We expect that we will have some positive test results in our baseline testing; until those cases are identified and the student moves to isolation to recover, we need to take reasonable steps to mitigate the transmission of the virus on campus.
Students who test positive will be isolated for a minimum of 10 days in a space on campus designated for this purpose. You will have your meals delivered to you, and we will assist you in making arrangements with professors to address the completion of course work. Based on guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, you may self-isolate at your home if it is within regional driving distance (2-3 hours) and your 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. As appropriate, this can be within your room on campus, a designated space on campus, or at your home (if, as stated above, it is within regional driving distance and your 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 the 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 have been hard at work preparing the campus for your 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 further questions, please check out our COVID-19 FAQ page.
All the best,