St. Olaf College | COVID-19

March 4, 2022 at 1:36 p.m.

COVID Campus Response Update

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

Dear St. Olaf Community,

As we approach the weekend, I’m writing to update you on the COVID-19 situation on campus — and to provide some guidance for the coming days and weeks before spring break.

We’re continuing to see a spike in cases on campus, with 125 positive cases reported between Monday and Thursday. As of this morning, our 14-day infection rate was 3.8%, though that number will shift as we get more test results today and over the weekend. We remain at a Yellow (medium) Campus Alert Level, with masks required indoors.

The cases are concentrated among students, and driven by transmission usually occurring during social gatherings. We are not seeing widespread virus transmission linked to classrooms, workplace activity, or structured campus events.

As I said earlier this week, this trend is disheartening. But because we now know more about how the virus spreads, how it is impacting our community and how we can work to contain it, there is also reason for optimism and room for flexibility. Our intention is to continue to provide and accommodate in-person classes, in-person workplaces and in-person events and opportunities for social connection.

But as this surge strains our system, we need your help:

  1. Mask up. Be consistent with your mask use, and wear a high-quality mask like an N95, KN95 or KN94 — or double layer a cloth mask with a surgical mask — if possible. This is especially critical whenever you feel sick. The vast majority of people testing positive have symptoms like nasal congestion, scratchy throat and/or fatigue.
  2. If you feel sick, stay home. If you are experiencing symptoms, stay home or in your residence hall, put on a mask, and report your symptoms, exposures or positive tests using our COVID-19 reporting form.
  3. Be flexible. This surge in cases is straining our COVID-19 testing and case management systems — especially as we attempt to keep structured activities going on campus. We are continuing to modify our contact tracing and isolation protocols to adjust to demand and to the realities of this phase of the pandemic.

Use COVID common sense. Limit your social groups on campus to small groups of people, especially for dining or other activities where consistent mask use isn’t possible.

While this variant is highly transmissible, our high vaccination and booster rates have meant that we are not seeing severe illness on campus. Most people who test positive have symptoms, but thankfully those symptoms have been mild, although unpleasant.

Just a few weeks remain before spring break, so I hope we can all continue to work together to make our way through this latest challenging twist in the pandemic. We want you to be well for spring break, and each of your decisions make a difference.

Best,

Enoch