August 24, 2021 at 6:01 p.m.
Update on Fall COVID Response
To St. Olaf College students
From Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis
Dear St. Olaf Students,
As we look forward to kicking off the academic year and welcoming you back to campus, I have several important COVID-19 updates that I’d like to share.
With the Delta Variant surge both across the nation and locally (see Rice County data here), we have a layered COVID-19 testing plan to open our academic year. Our highly vaccinated campus will allow us to start the semester with cautious confidence. New research shows that the Delta variant is much more contagious and vaccines are less effective against infection. Therefore, our plan’s first layer is to strongly encourage all students, faculty, and staff to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to returning to campus. While different states have different options for accessing tests, in Minnesota at-home kits can be ordered here or purchased at many local pharmacies. Should you test positive or are symptomatic, please stay home until you have recovered and contact your class dean.
The second layer of our testing plan is to conduct two rounds of COVID-19 tests for all students, faculty, and staff upon their return to campus. Last year our goal for baseline testing was to establish a bubble, while this year’s baseline testing aims to assess the virus’ presence in the campus community. The assessment will inform the strategies needed to safely hold in-person classes, gatherings, and activities.
Round 1 testing will occur September 7-9 and Round 2 from September 20-21. The Tostrud Fieldhouse will be our testing center and, like last year, you will bring your ID, be asked to fill out an electronic consent form, and then complete a saliva test. Please watch for a separate sign-up email from the C19 Test Team. Results from initial return to campus testing of athletes have been encouraging with a very low positivity rate. Until these two rounds of testing are complete, all students, faculty, and staff must remain masked in public indoor spaces. Once we have the results of these tests back, we will reevaluate our masking policy.
If you test positive for COVID-19 — regardless of your vaccination status — you will need to isolate for 10 days. Like last year, we have designated isolation housing on campus. We will also continue our contact tracing process this year, but our protocols are slightly different due to vaccinations. If you are identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and you are fully vaccinated, you will receive a rapid test 3 to 5 days after your exposure that will provide results in 15 minutes. If positive, you will be isolated for 10 days. If negative, you will receive a second rapid test 7 to 10 days after your exposure. During the intervening time, you will be asked to mask but may attend classes and move around campus. If the second rapid test is negative, you’ll resume your normal routine. If it is positive, you will be isolated for 10 days.
For those who are not fully vaccinated, close contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will quarantine for 14 days.
The definition of a close contact is still anyone who has been within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, cumulative throughout a day, regardless of whether you were masked or not.
We have updated our Community Standards to reflect the practices and policies that will be in place this year. Please review this document as you return to campus.
Thank you for your support and diligence as we ready ourselves for another year of campus life amid an evolving pandemic.