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Following an increase in COVID cases, campus moves back to heightened yellow alert

St. Olaf returned to a  heightened yellow alert level following an increase of positive COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday, March 25, 76 students are in quarantine and 34 are in isolation alongside a 2.23% positive test rate through the last seven days of surveillance testing — the highest positive test rate of the semester so far.

Rice County’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 people increased as well and currently sits at 26.21. In response the Campus Reopening Team has moved campus back to a heightened yellow alert, limiting off-campus travel and inter-campus visiting. 

A week after the first of three campus rest days, students wonder if the rest day coinciding with  St. Patrick’s day contributed to the current outbreak and may continue to result in more cases.

Campus has recently reopened for in-person campus tours. Following Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s March 13 COVID-19 announcement, which eased state-wide restrictions, admissions began to offer limited campus tours throughout the week. The tours will require masks and prior health screenings of visitors, as well as maintaining physical distance and limited entry into buildings. The Campus Reopening Team is in current discussion with admissions on whether the tours will continue during this time.

As vaccine rollout continues across the state, students are urged to get the vaccine whenever they become eligible. However, recent conversations with Rice County Public Health make it seem unlikely that St. Olaf and Carleton would be able to host a campus-wide vaccination clinic in the near future. 

“We feel confident that by taking these steps now, in conjunction with our strong testing and quarantine protocols, we can stay on top of the cases on campus and remain together in person,”  wrote Campus Reopening Lead, Enoch Blazis  in an email to campus. “But we need to be cautious and work together as a community — we’re all in this together. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and support.”


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