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COVID Update – August 3

Dear Macalester Community,

We are excited to welcome many of our students to campus beginning on Wednesday, August 10 for pre-semester programming. Most first-year students will move into their residence halls on Friday, August 26 and returning students who are living on campus will move in August 28-30. 

This fall we will implement a “masking period” beginning Wednesday, August 10 and continuing through the first two weeks of classes (through September 14). During this masking period, high quality (e.g. N95, KN95) masks will be expected in all public indoor spaces on campus. This period echoes our approach to the previous four semesters that started with an analogous intentional start to assembling our on-campus community. According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), “consistent and correct masking is an effective tool to combat the spread of COVID.” 

COVID-19 case counts continue to be significant in Minnesota and across the United States, even as it becomes more difficult to accurately measure these numbers due to increases in home-based testing where results often are not reported. Evidence indicates that the current dominant variant, BA5, is highly transmissible. Vaccination and boosting, while highly effective in most populations for preventing serious illness and hospitalization, has waning utility in reducing community spread of COVID-19.

The masking period at the start of our fall semester will help set us up for success and for a healthy start to the academic year. Orientation, by design, involves large groups of new contacts (students and also families) mingling at both indoor and outdoor activities. We want to keep our new students, and indeed ALL students and members of the campus community, healthy and well-prepared for the first weeks of classes. We will monitor COVID-19 case levels as our students and our community come together again in a residential setting.

In early September, based on an assessment of campus and regional indicators, the Infectious Disease Task Force (IDTF) will make recommendations to senior leadership about whether to end the masking period and/or adjust other mitigation efforts; any extension of the masking period will be communicated to campus.

Because they are active clinical spaces, the Hamre Center and the athletic training room will continue to be spaces where masks are required until further notice. 

As a reminder from the IDTF’s July 12 message, we expect students to take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours prior to traveling to campus and to stay home if they test positive. Faculty and staff are encouraged to use rapid antigen testing and to stay home if they test positive.

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to keep each other safer. Please continue to refer to our COVID-19 website and reach out via email to healthresponse@macalester.edu if you have a question that isn’t answered on the website. Dean of the Faculty Tom Halverson will be sending an e-mail this week to faculty and staff to address instructional- and classroom-specific topics.

We look forward to welcoming our community in the coming weeks as we begin the 2022-23 academic year.

Jen Jacobsen, MA, MPH, Executive Director, Hamre Center for Health & Wellness
Steph Walters, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Hamre Center
Co-Chairs, Infectious Disease Task Force

Published: August 3, 2022