October 13, 2021 at 10:19 a.m.
COVID Response Update
To St. Olaf College staff and faculty
From Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis
Dear St. Olaf Community,
As we near the midpoint of the fall semester, I’m writing to share some encouraging news on our COVID-19 mitigation strategies and an important update to that ongoing work.
First: Transmission of the virus on campus continues to be low. We are testing and tracking students, faculty and staff who report symptoms or are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Our current 14-day community infection rate is 0.16%. [For more details, check out our COVID-19 dashboard.]
This tracks with the latest findings from both the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control and the Minnesota Department of Health, which show that while breakthrough infections are happening — as expected — in some fully vaccinated people, those cases are rare. The latest data in Minnesota shows that breakthrough cases have been documented in just 1.2% of people who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
Our high vaccination rate, continuing safety protocols (including required masking for all campus visitors,) and your individual efforts are making a difference. We remain at a Green (low) alert level on campus. But with the weather cooling down, shifting more activities inside, and with COVID-19 continuing to circulate more widely outside St. Olaf, we are moving to increase our monitoring for the virus on campus.
Shortly after returning from Fall Break, we will start conducting weekly surveillance testing. Beginning the week of October 25th, 300 people, including students, faculty and staff, will be randomly selected for testing. That amounts to approximately 10% of our campus community, and will reflect the broad spectrum of unique activities and associated risks in our population. This will provide us with a deeper understanding of where and how COVID-19 is, or is not, circulating on campus.
People who are selected for testing will be notified by email. If selected, your participation is mandatory — and critical as we work toward our shared goal of keeping our community safe and making this year’s experience as full as possible.
This testing will be in addition to our ongoing testing of people who report symptoms or are identified as close contacts. We are also making plans for campus-wide testing when classes resume after Thanksgiving break, and for additional testing for Christmas Festival participants. More information about both of those plans will be shared soon.
I appreciate your attention to these updates and your continuing efforts to look out for each other with patience, understanding and respect.