St. Olaf College | COVID-19

March 26, 2021 at 2:22 p.m.

Update on Additional COVID-19 Testing, Campus Alert Conditions, and Vaccine

To St. Olaf College studentsFrom Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis

Dear Oles,

I’m writing to provide an important update on three things:

  1. Increased COVID-19 testing on campus
  2. Review of restrictions while we’re in a “lay low” period
  3. News about vaccine eligibility

1. Increased COVID-19 testing on campus
Earlier this week I outlined the additional Yellow Campus Alert Level precautions we put in place in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases that we’ve seen on campus. Yesterday afternoon we had a call with the Minnesota Department of Health to discuss what other steps we can and should take to prevent the spread of the virus.

The experts at MDH agree with our own health care consultant that, given the prevalence of the more contagious variants across the state of Minnesota and the type of spread we are seeing on campus, we need to increase COVID-19 testing.

Over the next two weeks, we will test all members of the campus community — starting first with students and then moving to faculty and staff. This testing is required. You will receive an email soon from the St. Olaf Testing Team, and I ask that you please sign up for a testing time as soon as possible.

This is a proactive, preventative measure that will provide us with the information we need to understand how prevalent the virus is on campus and interrupt any spread in our community. We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution while also acknowledging that what we learn over the next few weeks will play a critical role in determining our campus functions going forward.

2. Campus Alert Level Restrictions
I mentioned the other day that we’re moving to a “lay low” period, and our call with health experts yesterday reinforced how important this will be over the next few weeks. Based on their guidance, we have further tightened and want to emphasize several guidelines:

  • All students are required to stay on campus. Unless you have an extremely urgent need to leave campus, you should stay here. If you have an essential reason to leave, you are required to fill out this form to be reviewed and approved by Student Life.
  • Residence Halls and Honor Houses are closed to visitors, including students who live in other residence halls or houses. This is a change from the restrictions I shared with you earlier this week, but it’s a step we feel is important to take after further conversations with epidemiologists. You may only enter the residence hall/house you reside in.

Please also keep in mind the other important guidelines we need to continue to follow while we’re in our heightened Yellow Campus Alert Level:

  • Students should stick to their “social bubble” on campus. It is increasingly critical that you limit your close contacts 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). If you can think of more than 5 people you’re closer to than 6 feet without a mask, you need to shrink your social bubble.
    • 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. As the weather improves, the best place to meet with others is outside.
  • Masks must continue to be worn at all times in public, including when you’re with your “social bubble” in common areas.
  • 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 viral symptoms.
  • Only approved group activities and those that fulfill academic requirements will be allowed. This includes:
    • Meals
    • Classes and labs
    • Daily chapel and Sunday worship in Boe Memorial Chapel
    • Required and approved music and fine art activities
    • Approved athletic and extracurricular activities
    • Structured events and gatherings approved through Student Activities (see Guidelines for Student Organizations here)
    • Admissions tours
    • COVID-19 testing

We are not seeing spread in classrooms or other structured activities where we’re strictly adhering to our Community Standards. We want to maintain some sense of normalcy on campus, which is why we’re allowing the structured activities above even while we’re in this “lay low” period. Please take these guidelines seriously and restrict your social activities so that we can successfully emerge from this “lay low” period.

3. Vaccine Update
On a hopeful note, we have good news about the availability of the vaccine. Governor Walz announced today that everyone age 16 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated starting March 30. We’re already in contact with health care providers and are quickly working to determine how we can provide access to the vaccine for our campus community members. Our hope is that we will be able to have a vaccine clinic on campus, and we are doing everything we can to make that possible.

I would also encourage individuals to sign up for the Vaccine Connector and get on your health care provider’s vaccine list as well. Any student, faculty, or staff member who can find a vaccine independently should do so. The more quickly each of us is vaccinated, the more protected our campus community will be.

I want to thank everyone for their ongoing focus and resilience. As this pandemic has progressed we have had to remain vigilant and nimble. We are doing that now so that we can continue to remain on campus for the rest of the school year.

Enoch