Dear Macalester Community,

Three weeks ago, we provided information about an Opening Period that was to run through at least September 22, 2021. During this time, we reassembled on campus, welcomed new students, and started the academic year. Each of our activities has been carried out in the context of sustained COVID-19 case counts and worrying test positivity rates. Our own return-to-campus COVID-19 testing revealed 10 breakthrough cases out of 2195 tests, which is a rate similar to the state of Minnesota as a whole.

We continue to make evidence-based decisions. Given the regional and local COVID-19 context and observing a number of COVID-19 cases as we assembled in accordance with Minnesota Department of Health recommendations, the college has decided to conduct a second round of mandatory COVID-19 testing for students. As with the first round, testing will be facilitated by our partners at Homeland Health Specialists and will take place in the south end of the Leonard Center fieldhouse Friday, September 17 – Sunday, September 19. Students will receive instructions and reminders to sign up for an appointment using the Primary.Health platform.

As we head into a season of more indoor activities and gatherings, we will adhere to the following COVID-aware guidelines until further notice:

Well-fitted masks

  • Until public health conditions improve, we expect everyone to wear a well-fitted mask when in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Note: We are updating our use of the term “face covering” to “well-fitted masks” to be consistent with changes made by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

    • Because greater than 98% of our community is currently fully-vaccinated and– compared to other settings– a classroom, lab, or meeting space provides a relatively controlled environment, removing a mask to make oneself understood in a classroom setting or meeting is permitted; however, we note that the risk tolerance of each person will vary. Therefore, if an instructor can introduce at least 6-feet of distance from students and the learning experience can be enhanced by seeing facial expressions or hearing better, removing one’s mask is allowed. In the spirit of everyday consent, it would be best to name to the class why a mask will be briefly removed in that setting.

    • We strongly recommend that instructors or meeting organizers use a seating chart or assigned groups when 6-feet physical distance cannot be maintained. These records are helpful for contact tracing, which limits the number of exposures if there is a positive case.

Guests, gatherings, and events

  • Gatherings and events that include participants from outside our campus community are allowed. This includes spectators for athletic, music, theater, or dance events or productions.

  • All campus visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must wear well-fitted masks while indoors in public spaces and uphold our Mac Stays Safer Community Commitment practices regardless of vaccination status. Here is language we encourage you to share with guests coming to campus events:

    The safety of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and guests is of primary importance. Given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, Macalester expects that all in-person event attendees be fully vaccinated or obtain a negative COVID test 48 hours prior to the event. Further, we will ask that all attendees wear well-fitted masks whenever indoors in public spaces on campus and stay home if they have had a known exposure within 14 days of the event, or are experiencing any COVID symptoms. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 case rates and update campus protocols as appropriate.  Thank you for joining us in our Mac Stays Safer Community Commitment.

  • Consider how to mitigate risks at your gatherings based on attendance, location, activities, and what is known about the population who will be gathering. One way to mitigate risk is to limit food and drink offerings so that masks continue to be worn.

  • Make use of outdoor spaces while the weather allows! Outdoors remain safer than indoors. We strongly encourage wearing masks for crowded outdoor settings and for activities that for 15 minutes or more could bring participants within 6-feet of others who may not be fully vaccinated.

  • Certain events may be limited to Macalester students and employees or require that attendees be fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID test 48 hours prior to the event.

  • Additional considerations for athletic competitions and practices will be released soon, as they are regularly updated by state, NCAA, and MIAC recommendations.

  • For all gatherings, participants should stay home if sick or not feeling well (not just for COVID-like symptoms). We ask supervisors and professors to support this public health measure that protects all of us.


  • Those using college vehicles with multiple passengers for field trips or transportation will be expected to wear a well-fitted mask, regardless of vaccination status.

  • College-supported domestic and international travel is allowed for fully vaccinated faculty, staff, or students. Those traveling are expected to follow MDH travel guidance for domestic and international travel.

Building access

  • Library and Leonard Center will continue to only be available for use by Macalester students and employees. Entry will be restricted for guests (including “plus ones”), neighbors, and alumni unless they are participating in official college business (i.e. campus tours, Board meeting, or other Macalester-hosted activity).

  • During the work day, the Chapel, Campus Center, and Weyerhaeuser will be unlocked. All other facilities will remain accessible via key card access. Utilizing card access last year reduced reported thefts. With the increased number of people on campus, we will continue to monitor the flow of traffic into and out of buildings and may make additional adjustments based on these patterns.

  • With very limited exceptions, external groups and organizations will not be allowed to reserve or use campus facilities.

Classroom amplification

Contact tracing and quarantine

  • We continue to work with MDH to facilitate contact tracing of any positive COVID-19 cases in our student or employee population.

  • The management of close contacts (i.e. within 6-feet for a cumulative 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period within the 48 hours prior to an individual testing positive for COVID-19) will follow CDC and MDH guidelines.

    • Fully vaccinated individuals with no symptoms will not quarantine, but will be instructed to get tested 3-5 days after being in close contact, wear a well-fitted mask when in shared indoor spaces, and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

    • Close contacts who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated will enter quarantine whether or not they display symptoms, receive a COVID-19 test on day 5, and remain in quarantine until at least day 7. If the COVID-19 test is negative, the individual can resume normal activities after day 7 and should monitor for symptoms through day 14.

    • Regardless of vaccination status, individuals who are experiencing symptoms and are awaiting test results should stay away from others (e.g. not attend class, avoid in-person meetings, etc.).

Thank you for your continued commitment to keeping each other safer! We know this is a lot of information to digest and questions about items in this message or other COVID-related issues should be directed to


Paul Overvoorde, PhD, Director of COVID Operations, Professor of Biology
Steph Walters, MD, MPH, Director of Hamre Center for Health and Wellness


Published: 09/13/2021