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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

on this page:
Masking and Testing
Vaccination and Booster
Community Commitment
Staying Healthy
Support Resources
Ways to Help


Masking and Testing

What is the current masking policy on campus? 

Masks are no longer expected to be worn indoors for community members or guests, effective September 15, with the following exceptions: 

  • Masking indoors will still be expected for those with a known exposure, and those in isolation when around other people, and those who have symptoms or continue to test positive.  
  • Masks will be required in clinical spaces such as the Hamre Center and the athletic training room.
  • Departments or event organizers may continue to have more specific, discipline-related expectations for competitions, rehearsals, and performances – including for audience members.
  • Individuals may set masking expectations for particular spaces as follows:
    • Faculty or staff may require masks in classrooms, in their own office space, or in other instructional spaces.
    • Students may require guests to wear masks in their residence hall rooms.
  • Students may work with Disability Services if they need an accommodation for a masked classroom environment.  
  • The policy is subject to change depending on current campus case levels, conditions in Minnesota/Ramsey County, the emergence of a new variant of concern, etc.

What COVID-19 testing resources are available for students?

Students may receive at-home COVID-19 test kits for free from local pharmacies with the Macalester student insurance plan (UnitedHealthcare- UHCSR).

Students are also encouraged to order free rapid antigen tests from the State of Minnesota. For students living on campus, be sure to include your residence hall and room number in the address when ordering. For additional information on off-campus testing resources, and how to use your insurance to purchase or be reimbursed for testing, visit Options for Getting a COVID-19 Test on the Macalester COVID-19 website main page.

Testing availability at Hamre will vary depending on demand each day and the costs of the tests will be billed to either the student account (and you can submit to your insurance) or the United Healthcare Student Resources student health insurance. COVID-19 testing for students (both rapid antigen and PCR testing) will be available at the Hamre Center for any reason (travel, illness, exposure) by appointment with providers during clinic hours. Students will have access to local resources and be referred off campus if the Hamre Center is not able to accommodate the testing they desire.

What do I do if I have tested positive for COVID-19 and live on campus?

  1. If you are at high risk for severe disease, reach out to your medical provider to develop a treatment plan.
  2. Be sure to get medical care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think you are experiencing an emergency.
  3. Isolate from others in your residence hall room for 10 full days. You may leave isolation prior to day 11 if you have a negative rapid antigen test on day 5 or later.
  4. Fill out and submit the COVID-19 Student, Staff, and Faculty Reporting Form
  5. Fill out the Bon Appetit isolation meal order form
  6. Inform any close contacts that you have tested positive. With the evolution of increasingly contagious variants, err on the side of informing anyone you may have possibly infected.  Close contacts should wear a high quality mask around others and test 5 days after exposure. 
  7. Wear a high-quality mask (N95 or KN95) if you need to be around others. This includes when possible in the restroom and when picking up food. 
  8. Inform professors, supervisors, coaches and others that you are in isolation. 

What do I do if I have tested positive for COVID-19 and live off campus?

  1. If you are at high risk for severe disease, reach out to your medical provider to develop a treatment plan. 
  2. Be sure to get medical care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think you are experiencing an emergency.
  3. Isolate from others. Stay in your home and avoid contact with housemates as much as possible for 10 days. You may leave isolation prior to day 11 if you have a negative rapid antigen test on day 5 or later.
  4. Fill out and submit the COVID-19 Student, Staff, and Faculty Reporting Form.
  5. Inform any close contacts that you have tested positive. With the evolution of increasingly contagious variants, err on the side of informing anyone you may have possibly infected.  Close contacts should wear a high quality mask around others and test 5 days after exposure. 
  6. Wear a high-quality mask (N95 or KN95) if you need to be around others. 
  7. Inform professors, supervisors, coaches and others that you are in isolation. 

What are Macalester’s residence hall isolation protocols for Fall 2022?

For students living on campus, our plan for Fall 2022 is to rely primarily on isolation in place when a student tests positive for COVID-19, even if they have roommates. 

  • Students who test positive will: 
    • Not be moved to a separate isolation space, but will isolate in their residence hall room for 10 days unless they have a negative antigen test on day 5 or later 
    • Be expected to wear high-quality masks (e.g. N95, KN95) when around others
    • Use an online form to pre-order meals to be picked up themselves or with the help of a friend 
  • Roommates of students who test positive will be expected to:
    • Continue to reside in their residence hall room
    • Mask around others
    • Test at least once between day 5-7 (with day 0 being the day of the roommate’s positive test) 
  • The college will not provide COVID-19 testing to facilitate early release from isolation

A very limited number of temporary spaces will be available for on-campus residents with specific health-related needs, and these will be assigned based on accommodation requests through Disability Services. All requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

What do I do if I’m a faculty or staff member and have tested positive for COVID-19?

  1. If you are at high risk for severe disease, reach out to your medical provider to develop a treatment plan. 
  2. Be sure to get medical care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think you are experiencing an emergency.
  3. Isolate from and avoid contact with others as much as possible for 10 days. You may leave isolation prior to day 11 if you have a negative rapid antigen test on day 5 or later.
  4. Fill out and submit the COVID-19 Student, Staff, and Faculty Reporting Form.
  5. Inform any close contacts that you have tested positive. With the evolution of increasingly contagious variants, err on the side of informing anyone you may have possibly infected.  Close contacts should wear a high quality mask around others and test 5 days after exposure. 
  6. Wear a high-quality mask (N95 or KN95) if you need to be around others. 

I tested positive for COVID-19. Whom should I consider to be a close contact?

The definition of a close contact continues to be anyone who has been within 6 feet of you for a cumulative 15 minutes or more (masked or unmasked) during a 24 hour period. The time frame to consider is the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms or providing a sample that resulted in a positive test. Contexts to consider as you develop the list of individuals to contact include meetings, work, meals, and gatherings (large and small).

I tested positive for COVID-19. What do I tell my close contacts? What do my close contacts need to do?

Let your close contacts know that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and that you think they meet the criteria to be considered a close contact. Your message to your close contacts should also include these recommendations from the CDC:

  • Regardless of vaccination status, close contacts should wear a high-quality (i.e. N95, KN95, KF94) mask when around others for 10 days from the date of last contact.
  • Regardless of vaccination status, close contacts should monitor for symptoms and get tested at least 5 days after their close contact; if symptoms develop, isolate and get tested immediately.
  • Close contacts should follow this guidance regarding quarantine:
    • If you have taken the recommended series of COVID-19 vaccinations, you do not need to quarantine.
    • If you are not up to date on vaccines, you should quarantine for at least 5 days from the date of last close contact.
    • If you have tested positive in the last 90 days, completed a 10-day isolation, and recovered, you do not need to quarantine.

What is the difference between PCR and rapid antigen tests?

This New York Times article contains useful graphics and an overview of the different types, uses, and sensitivities of COVID-19 tests.

  • PCR test: PCR-based tests are extraordinarily sensitive because they make use of technology that replicates very low numbers of genetic fragments to levels that are reliably detectable.
  • “Rapid antigen” test: While antigen tests can rapidly determine whether a particular coronavirus protein is present, antigen tests rely on direct detection methods that limit the sensitivity of the test. In other words, if an infected person is carrying large quantities of virus (often associated with symptoms and spread) the test would be positive and evidence of a coronavirus infection.

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Vaccination and Booster

Are students and employees required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster?

Yes, Macalester requires all employees and all students to have received a COVID-19 vaccine and booster, or to have an approved exemption in place. For those eligible to receive a second booster, we highly recommend that you receive this as well. Students must provide documentation, or file a medical or non-medical exemption, for all required vaccinations (i.e. MMR, Tdap, meningitis, and COVID-19) by August 17, 2022. If the CDC updates its recommendations this fall (e.g. recommending a second booster to everyone over 18 or a variant-specific booster), Macalester may request additional documentation of adherence.

Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine? 

The federal government has created vaccines.gov as a one-stop site for locating pharmacies with COVID-19 vaccine supply. Enter your zip code, search radius, and desired vaccine and the system shows you locations and links to open appointments. 

How can I get a record of my immunization status?

For those vaccinated in Minnesota, you can now view your immunization record via an app or request this information electronically from the state. This can be very helpful for travel or event attendance requirements.

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Community Commitment

What is the Mac Stays Safer community commitment?

Our individual and community health depends on our choices and actions. Our ability to stay safer is only as strong as our shared commitment to each other. View the Mac Stays Safer community commitment.

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Staying Healthy

What should I do if I feel sick or have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, it is important to minimize your interactions with others. Hunker down in your room, wear a well-fitting mask if you need to leave your room, make use of grab-n-go food options, and maintain 6-feet distance where possible.

Students: You can contact the Hamre Center, 651-696-6275 or health@macalester.edu, during business hours to make an appointment. Call the Access Nurse line (651-696-6275, option 3)*  for 24/7 medical advice. If you are experiencing severe symptoms and want to be seen urgently, see this list of urgent and emergency care medical resources.

If individuals are vaccinated but sick (non-COVID-related illness), should they still stay home and work from home?

As part of our Mac Stays Safer 2.0 Community Commitment, Macalester community members promise to stay home if ill or experiencing symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19. Supervisors, professors, coaches, and peers will respect such decisions. 

What do I do if I have an urgent concern or an emergency?  

In case of a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

  • Students: If you need care after hours, please visit the Hamre Center’s Urgent and Emergency Care page for resources. If this is an emergency, please call 911. 
  • For students living on campus, Macalester Public Safety is available 24/7 to provide advice or respond to a concern. Public Safety will also connect with Student Affairs staff who can assist and follow up.

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Support Resources

How is Macalester working to support students? 

An Emergency Aid Program is available to help students experiencing financial distress. This program comes in response to a general concern about unexpected expenses that can disrupt a student’s educational trajectory, especially students who have no financial safety net. COVID-19 has underlined the need for such a program. More information about this program, and the form students should use to begin the process, can be found on the Financial Aid website.

What support resources are available for faculty and staff?

The Hamre Center for Health & Wellness provides a Mental Health Tools for Faculty and Staff portal. These tools include the WellTogether initiative, syllabus statements, and resource lists.

Employment Services shared a COVID-19 Employee Resource Guide. This guide includes information about COVID-19 testing and details about several Macalester benefits for faculty and staff including the Employee Assistance Program.

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Ways to Help

How can faculty, staff, and parents help Macalester students?

Thanks to those of you who’ve asked how to support students. You can make a gift to the Macalester Fund, which provides critical flexible support that can be deployed rapidly wherever it’s needed. Gifts will help our students with unanticipated expenses and help every campus department reimagine remote student support and programming. Any gift is appreciated.

What can alumni do to help?

Many of you in our thoughtful and generous community have asked how you can help. Thank you! Here are some ways to do that: 

  • Support Macalester students in a time of need. As the needs of our students, faculty, and staff grow and evolve, gifts to the Macalester Fund provide critical flexible support that can be deployed rapidly wherever it’s needed. Your Macalester Fund gift will help reimagine remote student support and programming by every department—from the Library to Health and Wellness to Career Exploration. Your gift will also help meet the rising student need for food through Open Pantry, provide support for lost student employment wages, and provide supplemental financial aid for students whose needs have increased during this crisis.
  • Be available to share career advice. During this tumultuous time, students could really use your career advice. Turn on your CareerHelper badge in MacDirect to show students you are open and willing to connect.
  • Hire a Macalester student. Have an opening at your organization, even for part-time work? Fill out this quick Google form and we’ll share it with students.
  • Stay connected and supportive. Show your Macalester pride—in conversations, on social media, wherever you are. Share your love for students and each other. This pride will help bring comfort and will also help prospective students see the community they will be a part of if they choose Mac. Reach out to friends and classmates through your local or class-year social media channels as well as through MacDirect, our online alumni directory.

For students or parents of current students: Have a question that isn’t answered in our FAQ or on this site? Please email us at healthresponse@macalester.edu

For alumni: Have a question that isn’t answered in our FAQ or on this site? Please email us us at alumnioffice@macalester.edu

Reviewed: September 22, 2022