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COVID Updates from Macalester’s Infectious Disease Task Force

Dear Macalester Community,

We look forward to welcoming members of the Class of 2026 to campus and we’re excited to share this message with our newest students and their families, as well as returning students and families, faculty, and staff. The college’s Infectious Disease Task Force (IDTF) meets weekly and includes representatives from across campus who bring specific knowledge and expertise to inform discussions about campus policies and practices relative to infectious diseases in general and COVID-19 specifically. This group strives for clarity and transparency in our recommendations and decision-making, and will continue to communicate with members of the campus community via periodic email updates and information on the COVID-19 website. Today’s message addresses topics related to COVID-19 planning for fall. A message later in the summer will include information about masking, the college’s Community Commitment to support each other’s health and well-being, and other relevant updates.

Vaccination requirement: 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.

Return-to-campus testing: 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.

COVID-19 testing resources for students: Testing availability 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. Free tests in previous years that were provided to us by the Minnesota Department of Health are no longer available from the state. 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.

We encourage students to order all available free rapid antigen tests from the federal government and 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.

Residence hall isolation protocols: 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 seven 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.

For all faculty, staff, and students, and especially for those students and employees joining us for the first time in Fall 2022, we encourage you to refer to our COVID-19 website and to reach out via email to healthresponse@macalester.edu if you have a question that isn’t answered on the website.

We are grateful for the patience and flexibility our community members have shown as we traverse the twists and turns of the COVID-19 pandemic and navigate science in real time. If there is anything we are certain about, it is that COVID-19 will continue to evolve and we will need to adjust our habits and practices as conditions change. We cannot guarantee that our fall semester will look exactly like we’ve described here. Our planning and preparation continue to serve us well even though we know there will be ongoing adjustments and challenges.

Best wishes for the remainder of the summer. We look forward to the start of the fall semester.

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: July 12, 2022