St. Olaf College | COVID-19

January 14, 2022 at 12:21 p.m.

COVID Response Update

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

Dear St. Olaf Community,

We have completed our second round of baseline COVID-19 testing and are ready to share those results and what they mean for our current protocols and our plans for spring semester. I also have updates on three other important topics:

  1. Continued weekly testing through Interim
  2. Plans for an on time, in-person return for spring semester
  3. Signing up for our Jan. 21 on-campus booster clinic

Of the 1,606 students, faculty and staff tested on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, there were 62 positive tests. That’s a positivity rate of 3.86%, which is down from last week’s testing but still high enough to warrant extra caution — especially because of the surging case numbers in our surrounding community and across Minnesota.

We remain at an Orange (high) Campus Alert Level, with additional restrictions in place for campus visitors, on-campus activities, travel, and students who want to leave campus. (If you need to request to leave campus for a medical appointment, work or other essential reason, fill out this form for review and approval by Residence Life.) Faculty and staff who are approved to work remotely should continue to do so.

A reminder: students who have not been approved to be on campus for Interim may not return without permission.

Weekly testing
In addition to those protocols, we will be continuing to monitor COVID-19 transmission on campus with weekly testing for the rest of Interim. All students, faculty, staff, volunteers, independent contractors, and staffing agency employees who are spending time on campus are required to participate unless you have had a positive COVID test between October 15, 2021, and now. Sign up for next week’s testing here.

Interim break and spring semester
We are planning to allow students who are on campus for Interim to leave during the break. When we reconvene for the spring semester in February, we intend to make a full return for in-person classes and those activities that can be safely held with any necessary mitigations in place.

Students returning to campus for spring semester and those who left overnight during any part of interim break are required to self test prior to returning. You’ll need to get a rapid test within 24 hours of your return to campus, or a PCR test within 96 hours, and attest that you have had a negative test and will follow our community expectations for COVID mitigation. Depending on your location, testing availability may be limited so we encourage you to purchase or order a home test kit now, or make an appointment for a rapid or PCR test within the appropriate time frame of your return.

We will hold multiple rounds of baseline testing in February to assess how the virus is circulating on campus. As during Interim, that testing will help us determine whether we need to shift our Campus Alert Level and turn the dial on our COVID-19 protocols. Decisions about specific events and activities will be made in consultation with our epidemiologist and factor in current case levels, location, duration and type of event.

As we plan for the rest of the academic year, we are closely monitoring the situation on campus and in the broader community. The rise of the omicron variant has complicated the already challenging task of trying to predict the future, and so I share these plans with the caution that they could shift, as so many things have in this pandemic.

Booster clinic
We are holding an on-campus booster clinic next Friday, Jan. 21, for all faculty and staff, and students who are approved to be on campus during Interim. You are eligible for a booster if it has been five months since your second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months since your single Johnson & Johnson dose. Sign up here for an appointment and report your booster using our COVID-19 reporting form.

All students, faculty, staff, volunteers, independent contractors, and staffing agency employees are required to get a booster shot by Feb. 1, or within two weeks of eligibility for a booster. Thanks to all who have already taken care of this important requirement; as of today close to 57% of students and nearly 83% of faculty and staff have received booster shots or are in compliance with the college’s COVID policies..

Thank you to all for your continued flexibility and patience. As we continue to navigate through this challenging phase of the pandemic, I’d like to express my gratitude to the hundreds of people on this campus who are working very long hours to make this all happen. Many are navigating complex COVID-related responsibilities on top of their regular jobs and all the personal and logistical challenges of this omicron surge.

We will continue to share more information as we have it, and appreciate your attention and care for one another.

Enoch