January 10, 2022 at 6:17 p.m.
COVID Response Update
To St. Olaf College staff and faculty
From Campus Reopening Lead Enoch Blazis
Dear St. Olaf community,
Results are in from our first week of campus-wide COVID-19 testing and as expected, we are experiencing significant levels of virus transmission on our campus. Our test positivity rate was 6.16%, with 103 of 1,672 students, faculty and staff testing positive. Those results show that the virus is spreading quickly and efficiently in our community — and that we must continue to adjust our strategy.
On Wednesday, January 12, we will shift to an Orange (High) Campus Alert Level. Under this heightened status, our campus will remain open for classes and labs currently being held in person, along with other approved events. But we will tighten restrictions for visitors and shift some campus operations, including dining, as we work to limit virus transmission on campus. More information on what that means for students, faculty and staff is below.
As the omicron variant continues to make an impact here and elsewhere, it’s important to note that in our highly vaccinated and boosted campus community people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have primarily reported mild symptoms. (To date, just over 50% of students and over 78% of faculty and staff have received booster shots or are in compliance with the college’s COVID policies.) But the rising caseload has widespread implications for our COVID response efforts, campus operations, and our shared goal of providing an in-person experience for the spring semester. Adjusting our response now will help us weather this surge and position ourselves for the rest of the academic year.
Orange (High) Campus Alert Level
Residence Life and Dining
- Students are required to remain on campus, other than for approved, essential activities like medical appointments, internships or work. Fill out this form if you need to leave campus, and your request will be reviewed for approval by Residence Life.
- Residence halls are closed to visitors, including students who live in other residence halls.
- Dining will be available only at assigned times. Students will receive a message from Residence Life with more information.
- Social gatherings, including dining, should be limited to small groups and people within your small “social bubble” (no more than 5-6 people).
- Only essential visitors are allowed on campus, with prior approval, and are expected to be fully vaccinated and boosted if eligible. Vaccinations will be required for admissions visitors.
- Faculty and staff approved to work remotely should do so. Offices should operate with as few people working in-person as possible. Meetings should be held virtually — even when they involve just two people — unless there is an essential reason for meeting in person.
- Participants in athletics, music and other college-sanctioned activities will receive additional communication regarding potential changes for those activities.
Boosters, Testing and Masks
- All students, faculty and staff who are spending time on campus are required to participate in a second round of campus-wide baseline testing this week. Testing will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. Sign up for your testing slot now.
- People who are identified as a close contact of a positive case do not need to quarantine if they are vaccinated, but should wear a mask and participate in baseline testing.
- We are shifting our test-out timeline for people who have tested positive and are in isolation. Those people will be eligible to attempt to test out of isolation after seven days if they are not showing symptoms.
- Boosters are required by Feb. 1 for all students, faculty, staff, volunteers, independent contractors and staffing agency employees. Seek out a booster appointment as soon as possible and report your booster using our COVID-19 reporting form.
- We strongly recommend the use of high-quality masks, like an N95, KN95 or KN94. If you don’t have access to one of those masks, use a mask with at least two layers of fabric, or layer a cloth mask over a disposable surgical mask. Masks are required at all times while indoors on campus, other than for students in their own rooms and faculty/staff working alone in a private, enclosed office.
The information we’ll gather from this week’s second round of baseline testing will help us evaluate when and how we can shift from this heightened status. Thanks to each of you for your cooperation with these changes, and all of the twists and turns this pandemic has thrown at us. We are hopeful that these efforts will make a difference as we look to close out the academic year with as complete of a campus experience as possible.