Dear Macalester Community,

We write with favorable news after the completion of our second round of return-to-campus COVID-19 testing. Of the 1,911 student tests completed, we identified four positives (0.2% test positivity rate). In the last week, two additional students who were experiencing symptoms were tested off-campus and diagnosed as COVID-19 positive. We appreciate their public health consciousness. All six affected students have entered isolation and are recovering well. The contact tracing of these cases does not provide evidence of community transmission.

Unless our community public health context worsens, we do not plan to continue surveillance testing. This decision is consistent with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines about when to use asymptomatic screening at institutions of higher education. We will instead focus our efforts on targeted testing of those who develop symptoms and those identified as close contacts of a person who tests positive for COVID-19. We strongly encourage those with symptoms to stay away from others and to seek testing and medical advice. Well-fitted masks should be worn in public indoor spaces when not actively eating or drinking. The ongoing layering of such tangible public health measures minimizes spread, not only of coronavirus but also other common respiratory viruses.

At this time of year, another action that has positive public health impacts is to get a flu shot. With the arrival of cold and flu season, we encourage all members of our community to watch for postings in the Mac Daily with details about on- and off-campus opportunities to receive a flu vaccine.  Both the CDC and MDH have shared that a COVID-19 vaccination is not a reason to delay or avoid getting a flu vaccine this year.

We and members of the Campus Opening Committee continue to field a number of good questions from members of our community. In the past week we added several items to our COVID-19 FAQ.

A reminder that Macalester continues its partnership with MDH to perform contact tracing to identify and notify those who fit the definition of a close contact. If a close contact is fully vaccinated and does not have symptoms, they do not need to quarantine. Three to five days after being in close contact with someone who tested positive, the close contact should be tested for COVID-19. While awaiting a test and the test results, these individuals can continue to attend class, but should minimize close contacts with others and invest additional attention to other measures such as wearing a well-fitted mask and monitoring for symptoms.

Keep up the good work! We encourage you to remain COVID-aware and to continue layering prevention measures. The delta variant accounts for nearly 100% of cases in MN and is actively circulating in the Twin Cities region. Other schools in the U.S. have experienced wide swings in case numbers, moving from single digits to dozens of cases in a matter of days. While the summer months provided a brief respite, the sustained number of COVID-19 cases in the past six weeks highlights the need to uphold our Mac Stays Safer 2.0 community commitment.

We recognize that many of us began to shift expectations or COVID-constricted behaviors in June and July. Reengaging with practices such as masking and physical distancing requires additional mental and emotional energy. We are grateful for your sustained efforts to be supportive of each other during this phase of the on-going pandemic.

Wishing you good health.

Paul Overvoorde, PhD, Director of COVID Operations, Professor of Biology
Dr. Steph Walters, MD, MPH, Interim Executive Director of the Hamre Center

Published: 09/24/2021