Dear Macalester community,

Happy new year to each of you. I hope you are finding time to relax and enjoy time with those closest to you.

As we approach the beginning of Module 3, I write with an update. On October 29, I shared an initial plan for Module 3 and, at this point, we will continue to follow that plan, including beginning classes on January 21 and observing a quiet period. Additional details follow.

  • Residence Halls: Module 3 move-in (i.e. MacPass activation) and COVID-19 testing will be completed together from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19 and Wednesday, January 20 in the Leonard Center Fieldhouse. All residential students must sign up for a move-in time here no later than 5 p.m. CST on Tuesday, January 12. Please note that this deadline has been extended to provide you with more time to finalize your travel plans. This time will indicate your arrival to campus and when you will have your COVID-19 test. For example: a student who has signed up for a 9:20-9:30 a.m. slot will plan to begin the move-in process with a COVID-19 test at 9:20 a.m.

    Please have your MacPass or a form of ID with you to present to staff at the check-in table. Once you have completed testing and your MacPass has been activated, you may begin to move into your residence hall and will have two hours for move-in.

  • COVID-19 Testing: All on-campus and off-campus students who will be on campus for any reason during Module 3 will be required to participate in two rounds of return-to-campus testing during the quiet period. Round 1 will take place January 19 and 20, and round 2 will take place January 27 and 28. For round 1, on-campus students will participate as part of the move-in process, and off-campus students will sign up here. Activation of MacPass building access will be contingent upon completed testing. A sign-up document for January 27 and 28 will be shared at a later date.

    The return-to-campus testing will involve the use of the Labpass system and the nostril swabs. Please log in and place a new order at labpass.com before arriving for testing. If you have questions or need assistance resetting a password, contact covidtesting@macalester.edu.

    We continue to explore options for faculty and staff who would like to be tested. Federal funding and decisions at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) about the use of these funds are currently being worked out. If MDH continues to provide free at-home test kits and/or maintains the community in-person testing sites, employees would be asked to use these resources. If these options are no longer available or are significantly curtailed, we will send an email to faculty and staff by January 18 to invite participation during on-campus testing on January 27 and 28. In addition to initial screening tests at the beginning of the module, weekly surveillance testing for faculty, staff, and students will continue throughout the spring and will include 15-25% of the community each week, based on the volume of COVID-19 case levels we’re seeing in the county.

  • Quiet Period: From move-in through February 1, in order to minimize the risks associated with coming back together as a community, every member of our community will minimize their in-person interactions both on and off campus. What will be different about this quiet period from those we observed this fall is that more campus buildings will be open and accessible because the colder weather will make it difficult to spend extended periods of time outdoors. Students who live on campus will be able to leave their rooms, gather in small groups while maintaining physical distance, spend time in designated campus spaces, and eat meals in the dining halls with appropriate physical distancing.

    The following buildings will be open during the quiet period for on-campus students to spend time on their own or in small groups:

    • Campus Center
    • Kagin Ballroom
    • The Chapel
    • Smail Gallery
    • Lowe Dayton Commons
    • The Leonard Center (for student-athletes) and stadium workout rooms (for non-athletes) will be available by appointment for workouts, and the field and outdoor stadium area will be open for all members of the community to use for exercise.

    During this quiet period, all campus activities, including classes, labs, practice and performance sessions, co-curriculars, rehearsals, and organized athletic activity will be held remotely. When work can be done remotely, faculty and staff should work remotely.

    Students whose job can be performed remotely are free to continue their work, as directed by their manager. Overall, positions that require a student to be physically present on campus should be paused during the quiet period. Some exceptions will be made in order to maintain minimal and essential operations, such as keeping buildings open. If managers have questions about authorizing in-person work during the quiet period, please direct those questions to Bob Graf, Director, Employment Services.

    During the quiet period, students who live off-campus should only come to campus if they have a specific reason to be on campus. Those reasons might include, for example, accessing the Health and Wellness Center, eating a meal (for those on a meal plan), accessing the food pantry, worshiping in the Chapel, or participating in in-person work-study designated as “essential” in order to keep a building operational.

For those of you making plans to return to St. Paul and to campus, please minimize the number of your new close contacts for 14 days before you travel. Note that this applies even if you’ve previously had COVID since the science is uncertain about your ability to transmit the virus, and if you’ve recently had a negative COVID test since that only provides a snapshot of a moment in time.

Although the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine provides hope for an end to the pandemic, we need to collectively commit to continue to keep each other safer. While certain strategies have become ingrained in our patterns of interacting, reassembling as a community from many regions of the globe requires heightened awareness. By minimizing the case numbers and spread of the coronavirus, we will allow resources to be directed to those who are most vulnerable and in higher-risk categories.

I also want to acknowledge and address the concerns a number of you have raised about our spring break plan – to move two days from the week of spring break into Modules 3 and 4 as additional wellness days. I understand this change was upsetting and that it exacerbated pain many of us already are holding.

Please know that we did not make the decision lightly. We considered input, feedback about the fall, the continuing unpredictability of the virus, and trends among other higher education institutions in the state (a number of which have shortened or cancelled their breaks). Although it is impossible to predict the future, we also had an eye on spring as we decided on a path forward for the rest of winter.

Module 4 could be our last chance for any of the things we all are aching for this year – for classes to have more in-person components, for in-person arts performances, for athletics to return to safe competition and the opportunity for our seniors to suit up this spring, and for there to be an option for some in-person component to Commencement. While there is no way to guarantee any of this, being extra cautious in Module 3 and reducing the length of spring break are steps toward protecting those possibilities for all of us.

I also note with optimism that we are in discussions with the Minnesota Department of Health about the timing of vaccine distribution with the hope of providing them to our community before the end of the academic year. While it is too early to predict when this will happen, we want to remain as flexible as possible to be able to accommodate any last-minute scheduling, including perhaps over spring break.

In the context of all those factors, redistributing two days of spring break is yet another sacrifice in a difficult year, but one that could get us closer to what we all want. The unpredictability of the virus continues to manifest itself in the changes we see each day as this public health crisis continues to evolve. I deeply appreciate your flexibility, and all you continue to do to keep our community and those around you safer.

As we’ve done all year, we will continue to update the COVID-19 website. If you have any questions that aren’t answered on the site, please reach out to healthresponse@macalester.edu.

Yours,

Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera
President

Published: 01/06/2021