September 24, 2021 at 10:57 a.m.
Final Testing Results for Round 2 Baseline and Changes to Campus Protocols
To St. Olaf College staff and faculty
From Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis
Dear St. Olaf Community,
We have concluded the return to campus COVID-19 testing of students, faculty, and staff, and we are pleased to report that our test results this week are consistent with our results two weeks ago. Of the 3,492 tests we conducted for this second round, 7 were positive, with a positivity rate of 0.20%.
This is an encouraging position to be in, and it’s a sign that the health and safety protocols we’ve put in place for the beginning of this semester have been effective and our community members have taken the responsibility to keep our campus community safe. Given our COVID-19 testing results, we will be staying at a Green Campus Alert Level and changing our masking requirements and approach to testing.
While we have very few positive cases on campus and a highly vaccinated campus community (97%), Rice County remains at a high transmission level (255 cases per 100,000 and a 6.65% positivity rate) with only 64% of the population vaccinated. We are asking that members of our community follow CDC guidance while local transmission rates are elevated and take extra precautions to be responsible for their own health and safety both on campus and especially off campus.
We are no longer requiring students, faculty, or staff to mask indoors or outdoors, but the following requirements and guidelines remain in place:
- Transportation: When you are using any form of college transportation (buses, vans, or cars), masks are required.
- Visitors: Visitors to campus will still be required to wear masks indoors. St. Olaf attendees at indoor events where visitors are present will still be required to wear masks.
- Classrooms: Faculty can use their discretion, based on their individual class needs, on whether to require masks in their classrooms.
- Individual Work Spaces: Employees who are masking can ask others entering their work space to mask.
- Music and Athletics: Coaches and conductors can determine when and where masks are to be worn based on best practices and guidelines from organizations such as the NCAA and MIAC .
- Personal Safety: We ask the community to respect those who, even if vaccinated, still need or choose to mask in public. Many may live with unvaccinated family members (especially children under the age of 12), support family members who are immunocompromised, or may have a pre-existing condition that requires them to mask even though they are vaccinated. We also ask all community members to use their best judgement and to mask in higher-risk situations (such as large indoor gatherings) both on and off campus or when around others who are at higher risk (unvaccinated or immunocompromised individuals).
- Experiencing Symptoms: If you are experiencing cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, we encourage you to mask. With cold and flu season fast approaching, masking is a respectful choice that helps to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. We also encourage you to report your symptoms and get tested if needed. This chart provides a helpful resource for understanding what steps to take if you have symptoms, have been exposed to COVID-19, or test positive.
- If you wear a mask, we ask that you wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth and that is well fitted to your face; we also ask that you practice proper mask hygiene. Consult the CDC masking guide for more information on how to wear a mask and what types of masks are best to use.
- Masking requirements may change over the course of the semester to remain in line with government guidance and requirements, or to respond to changing conditions with the pandemic. Please continue to consult the COVID-19 FAQs for further information.
Going forward, we will continue to provide on-campus testing for symptomatic students and those designated by College contact tracers as close contacts of infected students. College testing will also be provided for faculty and staff work closely with students or whose employment requires them to work on campus for when they are symptomatic or a close contact (designated by contact tracing). If you have symptoms, the first step is to stay home and report them; you will then be contacted for next steps. Because we have a highly vaccinated campus community, at this time we are not planning to conduct random testing throughout the semester like we did last year. If conditions change on or off campus, the College may implement random testing or conduct targeted testing of certain groups as needed.
Thank you for following these guidelines and for caring for those around you. We all want to have as full a campus experience this year as possible, and your personal commitment to our collective health and safety is the best way to achieve that.