on this page:
General Topics
Academic Topics
Community Commitment
Staying Healthy
Student Housing
Support Resources
Ways to Help

General Topics

What is the plan for Module 3?

President Rivera shared an update on plans for Module 3. From move-in through February 1, in order to minimize the risks associated with coming back together as a community, we will observe a quiet period and every member of our community will minimize their in-person interactions both on and off campus.

Where can I get information about the latest public health situation on campus and in the larger community?

Our College Dashboard provides an overview of COVID-19 status. The dashboard refreshes daily based on updated data. Student data (on- and off-campus) come from asymptomatic surveillance testing, symptomatic testing through the Hamre Center for Health & Wellness, as well as contact tracing or self-reporting of testing done away from campus. The number of students in isolation or quarantine is monitored and managed by the COVID Case Management team. Employee data come from asymptomatic surveillance testing, contact tracing, or self-reporting. The college also maintains an interactive Regional Dashboard that displays county and state level information.

Do I need to be tested for COVID-19 before entering the United States?

On January 12, 2021, the CDC issued an order requiring all air passengers arriving to the United States from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. The order goes into effect on January 26, 2021. More information is available on the CDC website.

Will campus buildings be open during winter break?

Residence halls will close for winter break at noon on Saturday, December 19. The current plan is to reopen residence halls on January 19. During winter break, all campus buildings and facilities including residence halls will close to students beginning at noon on Saturday, December 19, and will reopen on Tuesday, January 19. There will be a few exceptions, including the food pantry, which will be open by appointment.

Will Macalester’s athletic teams compete in winter sports?

President Rivera and Athletic Director Donnie Brooks shared a winter athletics update on December 15. Macalester will not compete in any games or meets during Module 3 (Jan. 21 – March 21, 2021). Although Macalester will not participate in the winter conference schedule, we are actively exploring options for our student-athletes to compete outside of the MIAC schedule.

What options are available for study away in Spring 2021?

Due to concerns about border security, travel restrictions, and the potential for disruptions of consular support abroad, the college will not support in-person international study away in Modules 3 and 4. However, we will allow interested students to apply for remote international study away. We also have expanded our approved offerings for remote and in-person domestic study away. Additional detail is available in Provost Moe’s October 13 message about study away and on the Center for Study Away spring study away FAQ page.

What options are available for study away in 2021-22?

While there continue to be many uncertainties around travel due to COVID-19, the college is cautiously optimistic in planning for study away during the 2021-22 academic year.  

Students who were approved for study away but had to cancel this year, and students who are in the application process for 2021-22 study away, have received guidance from the Center for Study Away. If you have questions, please contact your study away advisor directly, or the Center for Study Away at studyaway@macalester.edu.

How will the module system and updated academic calendar affect my financial aid?

Generally speaking, if you are enrolled full-time, the module system will have no effect on your aid. However, please review the Financial Aid COVID-19 FAQ for more specific questions relating to the 2020-2021 academic year.

What opportunities will there be for student employment in the fall?

There will be both remote and in-person student employment opportunities. We are reassessing all financial aid packages to make sure difficulty securing on-campus employment does not create undue burdens for students. A set of frequently asked questions about student employment for 2020-21 is available on the Student Employment website.

What opportunities are available for COVID-19 testing?

At the beginning of Module 1, students were tested twice: first, upon their arrival on campus, and second, within the subsequent two weeks. College employees were also offered the same testing opportunities. The college carried out COVID-19 surveillance testing for asymptomatic community members during October and November. This testing gathered community-level information by sampling a subset of students, staff, and faculty each week.

Information about testing and support services for students who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 can be found on the Hamre Center’s website.

Pre-break testing was offered on November 23 for students departing for Thanksgiving and not returning to campus.  Students residing in residential housing and those living off-campus with a meal plan are required to participate in an on-campus testing event on December 4. Students living off-campus in the Twin Cities are strongly encouraged to participate in this testing. Details were provided to students in a November 30 message.

For faculty and staff: The Minnesota Department of Health announced guidance for increased access to COVID testing. For more information about COVID-19 testing and related Macalester benefit programs, refer to this Employment Services COVID-19 Employee Resource Guide.

What is the plan for face coverings? Health monitoring? Quarantine and isolation?

The college, with significant input from the ID Task Force and local health organizations, continues planning to ensure the college has measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That includes:

  • Face coverings: Macalester’s Mac Stays Safer community commitment and face covering policy requires everyone on the Macalester campus wear a face covering when indoors, and outdoors when six-foot physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Health monitoring: Daily health self-checks are the best way for each person to monitor their physical health. The college has provided a screening tool and community members will be asked to self-assess for symptoms each morning. 
  • Quarantine and isolation: Reducing the number of students in on-campus residence halls allows us greater flexibility to quarantine students in single rooms should they be exposed. Students who are diagnosed with COVID-19 will be physically isolated. Physically-isolated students and students in quarantine will receive regular phone contact from campus health staff. Residential Life and the Office of Student Affairs will help coordinate arrangements for remote learning for physically isolated and quarantined students who live on- and off-campus. In addition, meals will be prepared and delivered for isolated/quarantined students on the college’s meal plan. Students will remain in physical isolation or quarantine until cleared by medical personnel.

More information can be found in the Public Health Practices and Community Norms section of the Return to Campus Plan. 

If an off-campus student needs to quarantine, will they do that in their off-campus housing or on campus? If an off-campus student tests positive, will they isolate in their off-campus housing, or the college’s isolation space?

Students who live off-campus would isolate (if they test positive) and quarantine (if they are exposed to a person who has tested positive) in their off-campus housing. The only people who would quarantine or isolate on campus are students with on-campus housing.

What is Macalester’s guidance around travel during the fall?

Any member of the Macalester community who travels–be that in the metro area or outside the Twin Cities–will be expected to engage in a self-imposed “quiet period” for 14 days after exposure to additional close contacts. The self-imposed quiet period will include participating remotely in classes, co-curriculars, on- and off-campus employment, and other activities. This is because extended indoor exposure to people outside a person’s current Mac “pod” could lead to the spread of the virus when returning to campus.

We’re asking everyone to reduce contacts outside their “pod,” whether they’re local, or as the result of travel.

What support is being provided for students, faculty, and staff who have underlying health conditions? Whom do I notify as a student? Whom do I notify as a staff or faculty member?

Protecting the health of our community, particularly those who are most vulnerable, is at the forefront of our planning. We know there are staff, faculty, and students who will not be able to safely return to campus in the fall, and we are ensuring our plans take their needs into account. If you are a student who requires a health accommodation, please contact Disability Services at disabilityservices@macalester.edu for support and guidance. If you are a staff or faculty member who requires a health accommodation, please contact Bob Graf at rgraf@macalester.edu.  

Will students who have to stay home be provided a hotspot for internet? Or will students without reliable internet connection in their home location be considered for exception to move?

Whether you’re at home, living off campus, or living in a residence hall, please contact the ITS Help Desk if you’re having trouble with reliable internet access. Technicians will work with you to determine the best solution. This may be a hotspot, or partnering with you to work with your internet provider on a more reliable solution.

How are spaces on campus being adjusted for physical distancing?

The Physical Modifications to Campus Space section of the Return to Campus Plan includes details on changes to classrooms, residence halls, dining services, general campus spaces, and individual workspaces.

What are we doing to mitigate risk in shared bathrooms?

Bathrooms are high-touch surfaces, and like other high-touch surfaces on campus, bathrooms will be cleaned frequently. In order to stay safer, don’t linger in the bathroom, wash hands thoroughly, and wear a face covering in indoor spaces.

We did consider adding seat covers to toilets, but ultimately decided against it. While a cover may help contain some droplets that result from flushing, ultimately that material ends up on the seat and now the next person must touch the contaminated surface. Seat covers also require people to use them, and there is a high likelihood that this will not occur consistently. Bathrooms have higher rates of ventilation than other areas of campus buildings. This increased ventilation means that any contaminated air will be removed from the spaces quickly.

Is the college permitting work-related travel or college-sponsored travel?

The college has suspended all college-sponsored international and non-essential domestic travel. This policy will remain in effect throughout spring 2021 or until public health conditions allow updates.

top of page

Academic Topics   

What plans have been announced for Module 5 (Summer 2021)?

Provost Moe shared a Module 5 update with students on November 12. Additional detail about planning for Module 5 was shared with faculty and staff.

Module 5 courses will take place between Wednesday, May 19 and Saturday, July 10. 

Courses will be offered in both fully remote and hybrid modes. Students are eligible to enroll in up to two Module 5 courses (in 2021) at no additional tuition cost on the following basis: For each semester that a student is enrolled in, and has paid for, 12 or more credits (i.e. full-time status), the student is eligible for one tuition-free course in Module 5 in 2021.

Module 5 courses will include a subset of courses we typically offer and some new offerings. Not all departments will necessarily offer courses in Module 5. While we cannot guarantee it will be possible to offer a particular course for a major, we will endeavor to provide a range of courses that help students to fulfill their distribution and general education requirements. 

Will the college return to a semester calendar for Fall 2021?

In response to student and faculty input, and following the recommendation of the Education, Policy, and Governance (EPAG) committee, the college will return to a semester calendar, beginning in the fall of 2021. Provost Karine Moe shared this decision with the community in a message on December 8.

Will the library have reserve items to check out this year, such as textbooks and laptops?

The DeWitt Wallace Library will not be offering a physical reserves collection (print books, DVDs, or CDs) this academic year. This includes the MCSG print textbook reserve program. In addition, equipment and tech items have moved to the Digital Resource Center and can be checked out using TechCheckout. There will be no laptop checkout on campus this year. Students who do not have access to a laptop that meets their academic needs should reach out to Financial Aid via the Emergency Aid Program. If you have questions about the library or accessing library resources, use the library’s Ask Us! form. 

How will language courses fit within the module structure?

Only accelerated language classes will run for the full semester (across both modules). All other language courses will be taken in one module, and the second course in the sequence will be taken the following module.

top of page

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

The community commitment requires everyone to wear a face covering. What are the specific expectations and proper protocols?

You should always wear a face covering that covers both nose and mouth when indoors, and outdoors when six-foot physical distancing cannot be maintained.

How to wear your face covering correctly:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily

Clean your face covering regularly:

  • Add to your regular laundry and use warmest water setting for the cloth
  • Dry completely in dryer or in direct sunlight

Please see the Face Coverings policy for more information.

The community commitment makes references to pods. What is a pod?

Pods (or bubbles) are small, self-contained networks of people who limit their non-distanced social interactions to one another — in other words, they’re the small group of people with whom you share air without using face coverings. Medical Director Dr. Steph Walters describes them as a closed circle of close contacts.

How should I interact with people outside of my pod?

You should try to maintain a physical distance of six feet with people outside of your pod.

It is safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household or pod. If you are in a crowded space, try to keep six feet of space between yourself and others at all times, and wear a face covering. Face coverings are especially important in times when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Pay attention to any physical guides, such as tape markings or decals on floors, or signs on walls.

I want to hang out with my friends and classmates. What are the restrictions on gatherings?

Seeking human connection is normal, but we know that the more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. A good rule of thumb to follow for gatherings is “if it can be virtual, consider making it virtual.”

What are the expectations, in terms of each individual’s role in cleaning shared items and surfaces?

Cleaning is a shared responsibility and it is important that we all regularly clean shared items and surfaces that we use and touch.

Please note that cleaning comes before disinfecting. Cleaning with soap and water (or the EPA-approved disinfectant) removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Apply friction, using a reusable or disposable towel, then disinfect with the non-toxic EPA-approved disinfectant to remove microorganisms. Apply a fine mist and let it dry. Wash your hands with soap and water after using disinfecting products.

top of page

Staying Healthy

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

Students: If you are a student currently living on campus or in the Twin Cities and are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please contact the Hamre Center during business hours at 651-696-6275. If you are a student living on campus, please contact Macalester Public Safety evenings and weekends at 651-696-6555. For all students, if you have medical questions during the evening or on weekends, you can call the NurseNow line at 651-696-6275, option 3, to get medical advice.

Faculty and staff: The Minnesota Department of Health announced guidance for increased access to COVID testing. For more information about COVID-19 testing and related Macalester benefit programs, refer to this Employment Services COVID-19 Employee Resource Guide.

If you are a student, staff, faculty member, or contract employee who has been tested at a location other than the Hamre Center and received a positive COVID-19 result, please contact either Paul Overvoorde, Director of COVID Operations (overvoorde@macalester.edu) or Denise Ward, Macalester Contact Tracing Manager (ward@macalester.edu).

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Our Government Guidance page includes links to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Minnesota Department of Public Health, and Ramsey County Public Health.

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.

top of page

Student Housing

When will residence halls close for winter break?

The current plan is to close the residence halls at noon on Saturday, December 19. While we plan to open the residence halls for Module 3, public health guidance such as the Governor’s executive order may dictate a different path in January. When you depart campus, you may want to consider boxing your belongings or taking them home with you. Facilities Services will be placing boxes, along with packing and labeling instructions, in residence halls.

top of page


Will Macalester’s athletic teams compete in winter sports?

President Rivera and Athletic Director Donnie Brooks shared a winter athletics update on December 15. Macalester will not compete in any games or meets during Module 3 (Jan. 21 – March 21, 2021). Although Macalester will not participate in the winter conference schedule, we are actively exploring options for our student-athletes to compete outside of the MIAC schedule.

top of page

Support Resources

How is Macalester working to support students during this time? 

We will ensure that all Macalester students have food and a safe place to live. The college will work with all students to ensure they have the technology they need and are able to fulfill their current academic commitments. We will continue to work individually with students and families if extenuating circumstances arise.

A new 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 resources are available to support virtual community and wellness?

Recognizing the value and importance of the learning that happens outside of the classroom…even the virtual one, the Division of Student Affairs has created an online hub for student engagement, community, and involvement. Resources are in place for students to connect and find community through student organizations, programming, chat rooms, and other virtual programs. There will be opportunities to engage in wellness activities such as yoga, fitness classes, and guided reflection. The online hub will highlight pathways to a variety of campus resources available to students through remote connections. 

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 resource guide for faculty and staff. This guide includes information about COVID-19 testing and details about several Macalester benefits for faculty and staff including the Employee Assistance Program.

top of page

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: January 15, 2021