St. Olaf College | COVID-19

February 25, 2021 at 4:35 p.m.

Update on Surveillance Testing and Campus Alert Level

To St. Olaf College studentsFrom Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis

Dear Oles,

I am writing with important, and hopefully welcome, information about our guidelines for socializing on campus. This week we began our COVID-19 surveillance testing on campus, and of the 567 tests we conducted we had 0 positive results. We also tested 79 athletes and coaches and had 0 positive results.

These results, like our COVID-19 baseline testing results, are a clear indication that you are showing exceptional care for yourselves and this community and are following our Community Standards and helping us establish a strong campus bubble.

The Minnesota Department of Health has advised all colleges and universities to remain at an elevated alert level, and we are adhering to that guidance by remaining in a heightened Yellow Campus Alert Level at this time.

We also hear — and can understand — the requests that many of you have made to have a little more flexibility within our campus bubble, and we’d like to do what we can to support that. Given our strong baseline and surveillance testing results, and with additional guidance that MDH gave us yesterday, we are allowing the following:

  • St. Olaf students may develop a “social bubble” on campus. We strongly encourage you to limit your close contacts, and you can do that by limiting your close interactions to a small number of friends on campus in a “social bubble.”
    • The individuals in your “social bubble” are those who you do not always stay masked around or maintain 6 feet of physical distance from (think: your roommate, your significant other, your very close friends).
    • Your “social bubble” should include no more than 5 people. The bubble should be coordinated with your roommate(s).
    • It’s important to note that if anyone in your “social bubble” tests positive for COVID-19, the entire bubble will almost certainly need to quarantine.
    • You’re welcome to gather with members of the campus community outside of your “social bubble” — you just need to continue to wear a mask and maintain 6 feet of physical distance at all times when you’re with anyone outside of your bubble.
  • St. Olaf students may now visit students in other Residence Halls and Honor Houses. Campus remains closed to visitors, but on-campus students may now visit each other. The maximum number of students allowed in each room is twice the number of residents (so if two people live in a room, a maximum of four students may be gathered there). Unless the entire group is part of the same “social bubble,” you must all be masked and maintain 6 feet of physical distance when together.

As a reminder, the following guidelines remain in place while we’re in a heightened Yellow Campus Alert Level:

  • Masks must continue to be worn at all times in public, including when you’re with your “social bubble” in common areas.
  • All students are required to stay on campus. If you have an essential reason to travel off campus (such as work or a medical appointment), you are required to fill out this form to be reviewed and approved by Student Life. Students who live off campus should keep their activities limited to their residence and campus, and also need to fill out the form above for anything beyond that.
  • You must report to the college if you have a positive test result, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Please report using this form.
  • Only approved group activities and those that fulfill academic requirements will be allowed. This includes:
    • Meals
    • Classes and labs
    • Required and approved music and fine art activities
    • Approved athletic and extracurricular activities
    • Events and gatherings approved through Student Activities (see Guidelines for Student Organizations here)
    • Informal social gatherings (hanging out) of no more than 10 people indoors and 15 people outdoors. Additional guidance on social gatherings from MDH can be found here.
    • COVID-19 testing

We will continue to monitor the indicators that determine our Campus Alert Level and seek guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, with the hope that we can further ease restrictions as the semester progresses.

Vaccine Update
The COVID-19 vaccine supply remains limited across the state, but we do have several updates:

  • We have offered to be a point of distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine for our campus community members, but based on the availability of the vaccine at this time the state will rely on the local public health authority (Rice County) and other distribution points to distribute the vaccine. The vaccine rollout will follow the phases and priorities outlined by the Minnesota Department of Health.
  • We are coordinating with Rice County and have submitted a count of who qualifies on the Phase 1A list, which consists mainly of healthcare workers and first responders.
  • We are not sharing personal information with Rice County. They will notify us when vaccines are available, and we will relay this information to appropriate campus community members on the list for that phase. Then individuals will have the opportunity to register themselves for a vaccine appointment.
  • Over the last few days, we have been informed that we are in the pool for these vaccines, and qualifying community members have started receiving notifications. These vaccines must be administered within 3-5 days of receipt by vaccine sites, so the notice for our community members is very short — typically 24-48 hours prior to an available clinic, but that could be even shorter. Today we received a same-day notice.
  • If you receive an email about a vaccine, please sign up immediately. These slots are on a first come, first served basis. If you do not get a slot, you will stay on the email list and get a future opportunity to sign up.
  • Our list of community members who qualify for Phase 1B will be submitted to Rice County when instructed, likely after our Phase 1A list is complete. This Phase 1B category consists mainly of people age 65 and older, childcare providers, and K-12 Educators, and we will proceed with a similar process for those on this list as we did with the current Phase 1A group.
  • If you are able to get the vaccine through your healthcare provider or another distribution point, go ahead and do so at the time it becomes available to you. We strongly encourage community members to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but it is not required.
  • Additionally, the college is exploring other vaccination partners such as Northfield Urgent Care.

Thank you for your continued diligence, commitment, and care for each other. Well done… let’s keep it up!

Enoch