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

General Topics and Updates

Are masks expected in the Leonard Center workout spaces?
Masks are optional in the Leonard Center workout spaces. Masks are expected to be worn in the Hamre Center and in the Athletics training room (these spaces follow guidelines for masking in medical facilities).

What are some reasons individuals may choose to continue to wear a mask?

An individual may choose to wear a mask for a range of reasons. For example, they may be:

  • in spaces where a mask is still expected (e.g. classrooms, labs, and studios; Hamre Center; athletic training room)
  • recovering from a respiratory infection or COVID
  • caring for or visiting someone who is medically vulnerable or in that category themselves 
  • working to protect other high-risk individuals in public places, even if they don’t know them
  • choosing to mask-up in an effort to reduce risks prior to a particular event, activity, or trip
  • avoiding other respiratory illnesses
  • supporting our community of care and helping those around them feel comfortable
  • taking time to adjust their own comfort level with this behavioral change

Why not require masks in ALL indoor spaces rather than making this optional?

Universal masking reduces the number of aerosols released into a space, thereby lowering risks that viral particles could be spread from an individual. The wearer of a mask also reduces the number of aerosol particles taken in through breathing. In a community with high rates of vaccination, good ventilation, and lower case numbers, the benefits of universal masking become more limited since there is a lower likelihood of a positive individual being present in any given setting. If case counts rise in the surrounding area or variants with new transmission patterns emerge, there may be reason to reintroduce universal masking as an additional public health layer.

Why not do away completely with the masking expectations?

We are mindful of the rise of a new COVID-19 subvariant, and the continued presence of cases on campus. While not enough to warrant masking in every situation, classrooms are spaces students and instructors are required to be. 

Masking in classrooms meets the accommodation needs for students and instructors who are in a medically vulnerable category– note the long list of conditions that the CDC includes in defining this category.

What COVID-19 testing resources are available for students?

The drop-down section Options for Getting a COVID-19 Test on the COVID-19 website main page describes the types of COVID-19 testing available for students.

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.

How do I determine “what is my day 0” so I can follow the guidance to isolate through day 7 and fully exit isolation on day 11?

updated April 5, 2022

Day 0 is either the date that an individual first developed symptoms, or three days prior to the date they provided a sample for a test that yielded a positive result.

For example: a person who developed a sore throat and runny nose during the day on Feb. 5 and tested on Feb. 6, would have Feb. 5 as day 0, Feb. 6 as day 1, continuing to Feb. 12 as day 7. This person’s last day in isolation, day 10, would be Feb. 15, with exit from isolation on Feb. 16.

If this person experienced symptoms starting on February 1, but they didn’t provide a sample for COVID-19 testing until February 6, then February 3 would be considered day 0.

Is there a difference at Macalester about what can be done on days 8-10 if I am positive for COVID and my symptoms have resolved? For example, can I go to class or attend an in-person meeting?

The current mask policy expects that masks will be worn when in public indoor spaces.  Students isolating on campus will be provided an antigen test on day 7; if the test positive, they will remain in isolation through day 10, resuming activities on day 11. This minimizes the impact for roommates and others in the congregant living situation of the residence halls. For all others who tested positive for COVID-19, if symptoms have resolved and the person is fever-free for 24 hours, on days 8-10 the individual is allowed to move about campus as long as they are wearing a well-fitted, high-quality (i.e. N95, KN95, KF94) mask whenever around others. When masks must be removed (e.g. dining), the use of other public health practices (e.g. physical distance, minimizing the number of individuals within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more, prioritizing outdoor interactions, etc.) should be observed.

Does the college plan to do surveillance testing in the spring?

Rather than invest resources in on-going surveillance testing, the COVID-19 Task Force has recommended that our resources be used for return-to-campus testing and to make tests available for those with symptoms or those who have been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive.

Surveillance testing has been one tool in a comprehensive approach to minimizing risks during the pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, regular surveillance testing was important in providing a snap-shot in time because access to other testing resources with timely turnaround of test results was limited. Constraints on testing resources made following community dynamics challenging, raising concerns about undetected cases leading to large outbreaks. In this context, surveillance testing served a valuable role in monitoring community spread.

Today, each of us has much greater access to convenient and reliable testing resources: the Minnesota Department of Health offers a free “at home” testing program and free testing sites; the federal government distributes sets of free at home rapid antigen tests; there are on-campus testing resources for those with symptoms or who have been identified as close contacts; and there is expanding availability of over the counter rapid antigen tests whose costs are often eligible for reimbursement by insurance. 

Can I host an in-person gathering, student organization meeting, or an event starting April 2?

Yes, using the following considerations:

  • Food and/or drink can be offered during events and meetings.  Grab-and-go options minimize risks.
  • For all gatherings, participants should stay home if not feeling well (not just for COVID-like symptoms) or if awaiting the results of a COVID test. We ask all supervisors, directors, professors, organizers to support an individual’s decision to stay home when ill.
  • Event organizers may expect that high quality (i.e. KN95, N95, or KF94) masks are worn based on factors such as size of gathering, number of participants, or size of venue.
  • Event/meeting organizers should consider maintaining a list of attendees (whenever possible) to aid in identifying close contacts.
  • The size of the gathering should take into account the room dimensions and the opportunity for physical distancing. When feasible, hold gatherings outside and encourage physical distancing of at least 6 feet between participants. 
  • Even with the option of in-person events, the least risky and most inclusive event may be online or hybrid to accommodate those who are immunocompromised, high-risk, or in quarantine/isolation.

What plans are in place for campus-wide events in spring and early summer, including Commencement and Reunion?

In alignment with Macalester’s community of care, for all large events on campus held indoors — including Commencement and Reunion — wearing a high quality mask (e.g KN95, N95) will be expected. At these events, we strongly encourage attendees to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations; however, they will not be required. We ask that guests who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations have a negative antigen test within 24 hours of attending a campus event. Regardless of vaccination status, anyone with symptoms should not attend.

  • Guidance about factors to consider when planning gatherings and events this semester can be found in the COVID-19 FAQ.
  • Commencement for the Class of 2022 will be held on May 14. Information is available on the Commencement website. We look forward to welcoming ’20 and ’21 alumni back to campus for a special recognition event on May 15.
  • Reunion will be held on campus June 2-5 for all who want to attend, including 50th Reunions for the classes of 1970, 1971, and 1972. Information is available on the Reunion website.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19? What is the process?

Updated 3/29/2022

The following process is followed once a student tests positive for COVID-19.

  1. All students and employees must report a positive COVID-19 test result to contacttracing@macalester.edu.
  2. Students then complete the COVID Case Management (CCM) intake form. 
    • Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., M- F and 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, the CCM team will share information with the student about the process for transfer to isolation housing with the assistance of Macalester Public Safety staff (for residential students) or guidelines for isolation at home (for off-campus students).
    • Outside of these hours, the on-call Residence Hall Director will work with Macalester Public Safety staff to arrange transfer to an isolation housing space. The CCM team will follow up the next morning with more information.
  3. For isolation, residential students are transferred to one of four college-owned houses that are located on the edge of campus. In very limited cases where a student lives in a single room and 80% or more of the isolation beds are in use, a student may be asked to isolate in place in their residence hall room. If this happens, a COVID-positive bathroom is designated, a sign posted, and residents in the area are informed.
    • The move to isolation housing is facilitated by staff from Macalester Public Safety.
    • Students are given instructions on what to pack and what items are provided (i.e. bedding, blankets, and towels provided in isolation housing along with WiFi access).
    • Meals require completing a form by 3 p.m. each day for Bon Appetit. The CCM team will communicate with those entering isolation housing between 3 p.m. and 7:30 or after hours to make meal arrangements. Each house contains a stocked cupboard with non-perishable food items. The process of ordering and receiving meals is explained in information provided by the CCM team.
    • The Hamre Center is available for students to contact with specific medical questions related to symptoms.
  4. The CCM team identifies the day 0 (i.e. date symptoms began or sample was provided that yielded a positive test result) and from that calculates day 7 of isolation.
  5. On day 7, 8, or 9 of isolation, after a student in isolation has completed the necessary electronic forms, the CCM team administers an antigen test.
  6. If the antigen test is negative, the student receives instructions of what must be done to check out of the isolation housing. If the antigen test is positive, the student remains in isolation housing for an additional 3 days, with exit after day 10.

What prompted the changes announced on January 25 to the isolation protocol for residential students?

While the current CDC guidelines allow exit after 5 full days of isolation, the high-density, congregate living in our residence halls creates concerns for larger outbreaks.  Since January 14, updates from three sources prompted changes to our isolation approach for students living in campus residential housing. First, the American College Health Association (ACHA) released guidance to fill the void left by the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health regarding information specific to colleges and universities. The ACHA recommends that a rapid antigen test be used to determine exit from isolation. Second, information in a complementary pair of publications – one from the Harvard School of Public Health and the other from the U.K. Health Security agency – showed 1) when tested on day 5, 50% of individuals infected with the omicron variant still had high viral levels; and 2) modeling shows less than a 1 in 10 chance that an individual is still a harboring enough viral load to be infectious if there is a negative antigen test on day 7. Finally, information shared by other institutions that have been doing exit testing shows a similar 50% or greater rate of positive antigen test results on day 5.

Who is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet for more than a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period that fell within the 48 hours prior to an individual either testing positive for COVID-19 or showing symptoms.

Does the college have a contact tracing system in place to notify community members about potential exposures?

Yes, Macalester works closely with the Minnesota Department of Health to exchange information about COVID-19 positive test results and follow up with those who have been identified as close contacts.

The contact tracing system will identify situations where notifications are needed, based on factors such as:

  • When a class or group last met: was it within 48 hours of the positive test?
  • Who was within 6 feet of the person who tested positive for 15 minutes within a 24 hour period?

We encourage classes or groups to use a seating chart or photo to know who was seated by whom.

What do I do if I am a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

This information was updated on January 14, 2022.

If you are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination (i.e. received vaccine dose(s) and/or booster dose in the timeframe recommended by CDC) or had a confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 90 days, you do not need to stay home/quarantine. You should get a test at least 5 days after you last had close contact with a positive individual. Testing sooner than 5 days doesn’t allow enough time for viral loads, if you are infected, to reach reliably detectable levels. It is preferable, particularly if you do not have symptoms, to use a PCR-based test such as the free “at home” test kit from MDH.  

If you are not up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations, you must stay home and quarantine for at least 5 days and get tested at least 5 days after your last close contact. If you develop symptoms, get tested and continue to wear a high-quality mask around others through day 10. 

I’ve been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive and I am fully vaccinated with no symptoms. What should I do while I wait to be tested on day 5-7 and while I am waiting for my results?

  • If you do not have symptoms, you are allowed to attend classes, and should work to keep others safer by layering as many public health strategies as possible: wear a well-fitted mask, maintain 6-feet distance, wash hands frequently, monitor for symptoms, stay away if ill, etc.
  • While you are waiting for your test and the results, you should invest additional energy in adhering to public health practices such as wearing a well-fitted mask; maintaining  6-feet of distance from others when possible; making use of grab-n-go dining options so you can eat outdoors or distanced from others; and trying to keep mental track of those that would fit the definition of a close contact in case your test comes back positive.

I’ve been told by a student in one of my classes that they have tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

  • The contact tracing team will notify the instructor that a student in their class or lab has tested positive. Such information should not be broadly shared and is provided on a need-to-know basis to the instructor so they can make informed decisions about potential accommodations for the student while they are in isolation and not able to attend class.
  • The COVID contact tracing team will work closely with the student who tested positive to determine if anyone meets the definition of close contact. Instructors don’t need to take specific action unless they are asked to share seating charts to help identify close contacts.
  • If you as an instructor think you meet the definition of a close contact or would like to be tested as a precaution you are encouraged to make use of the free “at home” test kit offered by the MN Department of Health or to visit one of the testing sites the state maintains. Of course,  you can also contact your medical provider for advice or other testing options.

I’ve been told by a student in one of my classes that they have been identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?

  • You can remind the student that fully vaccinated close contacts who do not have symptoms are not expected to quarantine but should monitor for symptoms and get tested as explained in the FAQ above. You can thank the student for sharing that news with you, and ask if they are getting the services or resources they need. If they have questions you can direct them to healthresponse@macalester.edu.
  • No action or changes need to be made in the classroom environment based on this news. 

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.

What is the policy for having visitors on campus?

All visitors are expected to wear a well-fitted mask while indoors in public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

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Vaccination and Booster

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

Yes, all students, faculty, and staff are required to provide evidence of a COVID-19 vaccine series and booster dose by February 1, 2022. Exceptions to this requirement include those in the waiting period for when a booster can be provided, and those who have an existing COVID-19 vaccine exemption in place. In the rare instance that your medical provider has recommended against your receiving a booster dose based on reaction to the first regimen, please send a note to contacttracing@macalester.edu.

Additional information and details for reporting were shared in a Dec. 13 campus message. Note that the CDC now recommends that booster doses should be given 5 months (previously 6 months) following the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Can I still get a booster after recovering from COVID-19 and if so, what is the timing?

According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), “A person with COVID-19 infection can be vaccinated upon recovery from acute illness and discontinuing isolation. This applies to all COVID-19 vaccine doses, including boosters. MDH has been hearing reports of providers telling people they are unable to vaccinate them for 90 days or more because they have had a recent infection of SARS-CoV-2.” For more information refer to CDC’s Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines: COVID-19 vaccination and SARS-CoV-2 infection and Ending Isolation and Precautions for People with COVID-19: Interim Guidance.

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. 

Can a vaccinated person test positive for COVID-19?

It is possible, but the risk of infection, severe illness or death is significantly lower after vaccination. Such “breakthrough cases” would be expected as no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing all infections. If you exhibit any of the signs associated with COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider for guidance.

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Academic Topics   

Will instruction be in-person for Spring 2022?

After an initial period of remote learning, we returned to in-person classes, labs, studios, and rehearsals beginning on January 31.

Similar to the fall semester, the college does not plan to offer fully remote instruction after January 28. In rare instances the college will work with individual students to coordinate accommodations. Contact Dr. Ann Minnick (aminnick@macalester.edu) with specific questions.

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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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Student Housing


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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 resources are available to support virtual community and wellness?

The Division of Student Affairs offers resources for students to connect and find community through student organizations, programming, chat rooms, and other virtual programs. There are opportunities to engage in wellness activities such as yoga, fitness classes, and guided reflection.

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: May 5, 2022