St. Olaf College | COVID-19

December 7, 2021 at 4:21 p.m.

Campus Testing Results and Masking

To St. Olaf College staff and faculty
From Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis

Dear St. Olaf Community,

Our week of campus-wide COVID-19 testing has concluded, and I’m pleased to share that the tests indicated low levels of virus transmission on campus. Of the 3,797 tests conducted between Tuesday and Friday last week, there were 21 positive results. That amounts to a test positivity rate of 0.55%, and we remain at a Green (low) Campus Alert Level.

I’m writing to share what those results mean for our community today, and to let you know about some important steps we’ll take this winter to keep up this momentum.

Masking changes
Because virus activity has remained low on campus, we are again able to relax our indoor mask mandate. Effective Thursday, December 9, indoor mask wearing will be strongly recommended—but not required—for students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated for COVID-19, as well as all campus visitors, will still need to mask at all times while indoors.

If you attend classes or visit offices that had mask rules in place before Thanksgiving break, you should assume that those rules still apply and continue to mask while in those spaces.

Additionally, we strongly encourage you to wear a mask when you travel off campus. Though our layered safety protocols have been highly effective, COVID-19 continues to circulate widely in Rice County and across the state of Minnesota. The statewide test positivity rate is above 10%, and Minnesota remains a national COVID-19 hot spot as health officials assess the potential impacts of the new omicron coronavirus variant. Our protective “bubble” does not extend beyond our campus, so please take extra precautions when you leave the Hill.

Booster requirement
All St. Olaf faculty, students and staff who are eligible to receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are required to do so by February 1. Our high vaccination rate has been a primary factor in keeping COVID-19 transmission low on campus this fall. But with the vaccines’ effectiveness waning over time, and with new, more transmissible variants contributing to breakthrough cases, it’s clear our community will need booster shots to prevent additional spread of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health now say all adults can and should get a booster shot once they are six months past their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months past their single Johnson & Johnson dose. Many of you have already rolled up your sleeves and received your booster dose. Thank you! Those who have not yet secured a booster shot appointment should make plans to do so as soon as possible.

People with an existing vaccine accommodation will remain in compliance and will not be required to get a booster shot.

We will not be offering a booster clinic on campus before the end of the calendar year, but booster shots are now widely available at pharmacies and clinics here and elsewhere. In Northfield, you can schedule appointments online at pharmacies including those at Target and Cub, where we regularly provide transportation. Use the CDC’s vaccine finder to search for vaccine locations in Northfield, or in your home community.

All St. Olaf community members should use our COVID-19 reporting system to report receiving a booster dose.

Thank you for your attention and your assistance as we continue to make our way through this pandemic. Next week, I’ll share more about what our COVID-19 plans will look like when we return for Interim, including additional campus-wide testing.

Good luck in this final stretch of the semester, and please continue to look out for yourselves and each other.

Enoch