St. Olaf College | COVID-19
September 2, 2020 at 2:33 p.m.
To St. Olaf College studentsFrom President David Anderson
I am writing on the eve of the end of our campus quarantine period with good news about the results of our two rounds of COVID-19 baseline testing and advice about next steps for our community.
Between August 4th and September 1st we administered 6,835 tests for COVID-19 to students, faculty, staff, and employees of Bon Appetit and Barnes & Noble. 38 of those tests were positive for the virus, giving us an overall positivity rate of 0.56%.
We have adopted a phased approach to re-opening the campus. Today we are in Phase 4, the campus quarantine, but I’m happy to tell you that tomorrow, September 3, we will transition to Phase 5 in which the quarantine is over and the fall semester proceeds.
Here are the guidelines for behavior during Phase 5:
- Courses that are in-person/hybrid models begin to meet on campus
- Students are encouraged to stay on campus; however, they are allowed to leave to socialize or work in surrounding communities while practicing physical distancing
- In-person student work commences
- Physically distanced extracurricular activities commence
- All buildings are open and functioning, but in some cases with stricter access
- All on-campus dining areas are restricted to students only
- No visitors
- Restrictions on social gatherings and events
- Continued restrictions on travel of students, faculty, and staff
I want to put in here a special encouragement for you to remain on campus as much as possible. Every venture off campus has the potential to expose you to the virus and then, on your return, to expose other Oles. If you do venture off campus, please be extra diligent about wearing a mask, physical distancing, and handwashing. We particularly discourage travel over the Labor Day weekend. The new cases in Minnesota are trending above the national average, and public health officials are warning that social gatherings over the weekend pose a greater risk for infection because the safety practices such as wearing a mask and physical distancing are often not practiced at informal gatherings with family and friends.
We have established alert levels to guide us for the rest of the semester. The levels range from green (low alert) to red (very high alert). As we enter Phase 5 we are in the green, or “low alert,” level because fewer than 1% of campus students have been infected within a 14-day period and we are able, through contact tracing, to identify those who have been exposed to positive cases and to quarantine those exposed and to isolate those infected. This is how we contain the spread of the virus.
It’s particularly encouraging that in the second round of testing the number of contacts exposed to an infected student dropped precipitously from round one. That tells us that you are being vigilant about physical distancing and mask wearing. Those two things, along with frequent handwashing, are the most effective interventions against the virus.
Going forward, we will continue COVID-19 testing on campus. We will conduct randomized testing of 300 campus community members each week, and will report the results on our COVID-19 dashboard. This testing will be paid for by the college and will help us monitor and mitigate the spread of the virus on our campus.
Oles, all of us share one goal: to proceed with the fall semester in person all the way through to its conclusion at Thanksgiving. For that to happen, we mustn’t think that now that the quarantine is over it’s party time. The virus is still active in our nation and in Minnesota, and it’s present on campus. We don’t want the hard work we have all put in together to be undone in the coming days and weeks. Practice physical distancing. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Be well!