St. Olaf College | COVID-19

February 21, 2022 at 8:51 a.m.

Important Update on COVID Campus Alert

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

Dear St. Olaf Community,

The results from our second week of baseline testing are in, and they indicate that we are now in a position to relax more of our COVID-19 protocols.

Of the 2,739 tests conducted last week, 17 were positive, for a test positivity rate of 0.62%. Those results represented a continued decline from our first week of testing, and track with the significant drop in COVID-19 cases in Rice County and the rest of Minnesota over the last few weeks.

The pandemic continues to impact life on and off our campus. But we are confident that our high vaccination and booster rates, low case counts, and well-honed COVID-19 case management systems will allow us to dial back some restrictions while maintaining a safe environment for our campus community. Effective Tuesday, February 22, we will shift to a Green (low) Campus Alert Level. Should conditions on campus change, we will follow our Action Threshold Plan and reinstate mitigation measures as needed.

The majority of people testing positive are experiencing symptoms, so it’s important that anyone with symptoms gets tested. As we relax mitigation measures, testing for symptoms will help protect you and our community for the rest of the semester.

Masking expectations
Starting Tuesday, masks will not be required indoors or outdoors for students, faculty, staff or campus visitors, with some exceptions:

  • Classrooms: Faculty may use their discretion, based on their individual class needs, on whether to require masks in their classrooms.
  • Individual work spaces: Employees who are masking can ask others entering their work space to mask.
  • Transportation: Masks are required when using any form of college transportation (buses, vans or cars.)
  • Music and Athletics: Coaches and conductors can determine when and where masks are to be worn based on best practices and guidelines from the NCAA, MIAC and other organizations.
  • Supporting Community Masking: We ask everyone to respect those who, even if vaccinated, still need or choose to mask in public. Many may live with unvaccinated family members (especially children under the age of 5, who are not yet eligible for COVID vaccines), support family members who are immunocompromised, or may have a pre-existing condition that requires them to mask even if they are vaccinated.
  • Experiencing Symptoms: If you feel ill or are experiencing symptoms, please continue to mask, and fill out the COVID-19 reporting form. Masking is an important tool to help with the spread of other respiratory viruses, and we need you to do your part to keep COVID-19, colds and flu from circulating on campus.
  • Large gatherings and high-risk situations: Please use your best judgment and mask when attending large indoor gatherings or when around other people at risk because of being unvaccinated or immunocompromised.

Additional Green Campus Alert Level Conditions

  • All campus visitors, including admissions visitors, are required to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. It is the responsibility of groups or individuals inviting visitors to campus to ensure that those visitors understand and are in compliance with the college’s COVID-19 protocols, including vaccination status.
  • Students, faculty and staff should continue to report positive tests, exposures and/or symptoms using our COVID-19 reporting form. Our case management team will continue to track and manage cases.
  • Testing will continue for anyone who is experiencing symptoms or is identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Additional testing, including surveillance testing, may be implemented if virus transmission increases on campus.

We recognize that these changes will be welcomed by some in our community but may cause concern for others. Adjusting — and then readjusting — our behaviors and expectations has been one of the most challenging parts of this pandemic. We are moving to a Green Campus Alert Level after consulting with our epidemiologist, and we will continue to closely monitor the situation on and off campus so that we can adjust accordingly. More information about our Campus Alert Level and the factors we consider in determining the appropriate level can be found here.

Thanks for your attention, understanding, and continued commitment to look out for each other.