St. Olaf College | COVID-19

August 20, 2020 at 3:33 p.m.

Reopening Update

To St. Olaf College studentsFrom President David Anderson

Dear Oles,

We’re glad you’re back!

On this first day of class for the fall semester 2020, I am writing with an update on our opening, some news about the results of the first round of testing, and some very important advice about how we can stay on a good path so that we can finish this semester in person at Thanksgiving.

We administered 3,459 tests to students, faculty, and staff as we opened campus. We’ve received results for 3,055 of them thus far, and 0.3% of those tests came back positive. A heartfelt thank you to all of you who exercised care for yourselves and for others this summer so that we could begin the academic year with such a low positivity rate.

As of this morning, we have 8 students who have tested positive. The number of positive cases is manageable, but we are deeply concerned about the fact that there are also 50 students who need to quarantine because of a lack of physical distancing.

Much of the need for quarantining arises from an off-campus party that many of these students attended last week before they moved into campus housing. We have since learned that too many people congregated in the space, masks were not worn, physical distancing was not observed, and the predictable results ensued. This is the kind of reckless behavior that will put an end to our in-person semester, and it must stop. At least one of the students who attended the party was infected with COVID-19 and exposed several other students. Others in attendance exposed innocent students, like roommates, who are now having to pay a costly price for others’ poor choices. Seventeen students who participated in this party are now suspended for the fall semester.

Every single one of us has a responsibility to check the behavior of those around us. If you see someone not adhering to the Community Standards, remind them that this behavior endangers everyone and could jeopardize our ability to complete a full semester in person. Our systems are in place and our preparations are excellent. It is now up to all of us to act safely and to look out for each other’s health.

We have posted on our website COVID-19 alert levels designed to inform the college community about the level of risk posed by the COVID-19 virus to our community at any given time. These levels are color coded, from green to red, and you can see the conditions that would move us from one level to the next and what the impacts of such a move would be on our life together. Currently, the campus is in a special quarantine status as part of the reopening plan. Once we start in-person classes on September 3, I encourage you to monitor these alert levels. Our goal is to stay at the green alert level so that we can complete the semester in person.

On balance, we have begun this semester well. We know what to do to continue on this path. Follow the Community Standards. Honor the pledge you signed before you came to campus. Wear a mask. Practice physical distancing. Check for symptoms daily using the ProtectWell app. Wash your hands frequently.

Best wishes to you. Have a great semester.