December 30, 2021 at 2:28 p.m.
Update on Interim and COVID Response
To St. Olaf College students
From Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis
I hope that everyone is having a safe and enjoyable winter break. I’m writing to share updates on three important topics for Interim:
- Protocols for our January 3-15 “lay low” period
- Testing and boosters before returning to campus
- Changes to our isolation procedures
As anticipated, we have experienced an increase in the number of COVID cases in our community. In the last eight days we have received notification of 45 positive cases from community members on and off campus who have self-reported a positive test. (Remember to report your positive test, even while off campus.) We anticipate that we will continue to see higher positivity rates now that Omicron is the dominant strain in the U.S.
Lay low period January 3-15:
Based on the rapid spread of Omicron and current conditions for Minnesota, Rice County, and the St. Olaf campus, all students on campus will participate in a campus “lay low” period January 3-15 as we conduct two rounds of baseline testing.
The first round of testing for students approved to be on campus will be held Tuesday, January 4 through Thursday, January 6. Sign up for your testing slot now.
Students participating in approved in-person group activities, including the performing arts and athletics, will have increased testing and will follow specific protocols for these activities. Faculty and staff leaders of these activities will provide more specific information about testing and COVID-19 protocols.
- Masks must be worn at all times outside your room.
- Limit your social group to 5 or fewer people. This includes eating and other social activities. Students participating in a particular activity such as athletics, music or a class are encouraged to limit themselves to these groups. No more than five masked people at a time are allowed in common areas in residence halls and student rooms.
- Only approved group activities and those that fulfill academic requirements will be allowed. This includes:
- Classes and labs
- In-person chapel services (10:10 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, plus MLK Day; all other services will be on-demand from the college’s streaming archives)
- Required and approved music and fine art activities
- Approved athletic and extracurricular activities
- COVID-19 testing
- All students are required to stay on campus. You may leave if you have an essential reason such as an internship, work or a medical appointment. Masks are required at all times while off campus.
- Residence Halls and Honor Houses are closed to visitors, including students who live in other residence halls or houses. You should only enter the residence hall/house you reside in.
We will be looking closely at the data from baseline testing to determine what mitigation measures we may need to keep in place or remove after January 15. Currently we are planning for an Interim break but depending on the results from baseline testing, we may determine that students on campus during Interim must remain on campus through Interim break.
Returning to Campus for January
- Get your booster. Booster shots are required by Feb. 1 for all students, faculty, and staff. The vast majority of our community currently qualifies for a booster shot (six months past your second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two months past your single Johnson & Johnson dose.) Report your booster shot using our COVID-19 reporting form.
- Get tested 24-48 hours before you travel back to campus and report if you have a positive test.
- For those who test positive, based on the recent recommendations from the CDC and our consultant, we will be moving to shorten the 10-day isolation period. We will require a minimum isolation period of seven days that will be dependent upon a lack of symptoms and two negative rapid antigen tests taken on day 5 and 6. If either test is positive, the full 10 days of isolation will be required. While the CDC guidance allows release from isolation on day 5 without testing, we are a residential community and want to proceed cautiously as we start Interim. We will continue to look at the transmission dynamics in our unique population and revise isolation timeframes appropriately.
- Because we’ve been able to de-densify our campus, some students who test positive may be able to isolate in their rooms. They will be required to follow specific protocols, including for meal pick-ups. More information about Interim isolation procedures is available in the COVID-19 FAQ.
While we are currently seeing an uptick in cases, our hope is that by implementing these measures we can continue to safely support those who need to be on campus over Interim. We recognize that these steps require sacrifice. Our intention is to be in a better position to bring all students back for a less restrictive campus experience for the spring semester.
Best wishes for the New Year,