Since the academic year began, many people on campus have noticed the absence of the COVID-19 dashboard, which was present during the previous years of the pandemic.
During those years, all students, faculty, and staff were tested regularly to determine the number of positive cases in the campus community. The dashboard would be updated to reflect those rates.
“The COVID dashboard existed when we had surveillance testing,” Dean of Students Rosalyn Eaton ’87, now leading the COVID-19 response team, said in an interview. “That wouldn’t be able to look the same. So what we’re doing now is giving you the raw numbers. That’s coming in from the Ole Insider, our newsletter.”
St. Olaf is requiring the bivalent COVID-19 booster which is equipped to handle the recent Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. Being vaccinated means someone is likely to show symptoms before testing positive.
“When this thing started, people would be infected and not know it,” Eaton said. “They were spreading it unknowingly. We’re not in that position now. You may be exposed to it and may have it, but it takes a while for the viral load to rise in your body, so you will experience symptoms before you test positive.”
With exceptions in some spaces, masking is optional, but students are expected to wear a mask if they do not feel well such as having a stuffy nose or sore throat since it takes time to determine whether it is a cold or allergies or whether it is COVID-19.
Meanwhile, without surveillance testing and without quarantine periods, the 2022-2023 academic year is looking different than the other years under COVID-19.
“There are a lot of people watching,” Eaton said. “We have a consulting epidemiologist, we have a COVID-19 team. When cases start to move quickly, then it’s time to mask.”