College enters yellow coronavirus alert level, signaling heightened campus awareness

St. Olaf moved into the yellow COVID-19 Alert Level on Friday, Oct. 23, after the College’s randomized surveillance testing discovered three positive coronavirus cases in two days between Oct. 19 and Oct. 20.

A jump in the COVID-19 positivity rate throughout Rice County and a high number of close contacts from on-campus positive tests also informed the heightened alert level.  

The yellow alert level increases some restrictions throughout campus, but is more in place to prepare the College for a possible move to the orange or red alert level, which severely increase campus-wide restrictions, according to an email sent to students by the Campus Reopening Team on Oct. 23.

Social and non-class gatherings are limited to 10 persons indoors and out, and the Reopening Team increases their communications with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Local Public Health (LPH) authorities under the yellow alert level. 

As part of heightened community standards, the email from the Reopening Team encourages students to limit the number of people they socialize with for the remainder of the semester while avoiding gatherings outside of students’ immediate social circles. The Team has yet to state this recommendation explicitly as part of the community standards until now.

Students have raised concerns about the effectiveness of randomized testing in catching a possible outbreak on campus, as only about 10% of students are randomly tested each week. 

A further increase to an orange or red alert level would see the College move to entirely remote learning and significantly reduce campus activities. All students who could return home would evacuate campus if the College moved to the red alert level specifically.