Changes to Carleton’s COVID-19 Decision-Making Framework

22 April 2022

Dear Members of the Carleton Community,

We write today to share the revised decision-making framework that will be used for the remainder of the academic year to guide the college’s pandemic response. This framework, which is now visible on an updated COVID-19 Dashboard, is more flexible than its predecessor and better represents the factors we are considering at this stage of the pandemic when determining how to respond to COVID-19 on campus.

Over the past two terms, we deviated from the existing decision-making framework occasionally as the campus positive rate had less of an impact on campus operations than we initially expected. Working with Carleton’s consulting epidemiologist, we considered these experiences from the fall and winter—alongside changes in CDC and MDH guidance—and made some notable changes:

  • We are moving away from making decisions based on the campus positive rate, and instead will follow case trends and implement strategies based on the impact those trends are having on campus operations.
  • We will use alert levels of low, medium and high to help the campus community and external visitors understand which mitigation strategies are in place at any given time. While the alert levels are not tied directly to campus positive rates, low corresponds roughly to a positivity rate of less than 2%, medium roughly to 2-5%, and high roughly to above 5%. Our current alert level is low.
  • The vast majority of positive cases at Carleton have been detected through the Rapid Test Site, and we are focusing resources there as needed to ensure continued daily access to testing and same-day results. Random surveillance PCR testing is no longer a component of the framework, although it remains an option if the need arises. Surveillance testing of student-athletes also has been discontinued, consistent with recent NCAA guidance, which has also been endorsed by the MIAC.  
  • New cases will be reported daily on the COVID-19 Dashboard beginning today. In alignment with this change, going forward you can expect to hear directly from the Core Team when changes to our campus alert level or mitigation strategies are made. We will no longer be sending weekly updates.  

At the national level, we are increasingly seeing a public health approach that relies on individual and contextual choices rather than universal restrictions. We hope to make a similar transition in the weeks ahead and are evaluating how current practices are impacting our people and our overall campus operations. One such step is actively pursuing a case investigation and contact tracing strategy that will enable individuals who test positive to identify their own close contacts, focusing on the types of contacts that are most at risk of spreading COVID-19, such as roommates, housemates and intimate partners. We expect to implement this change before the end of Spring Term. Ultimately, we seek to develop sustainable resources and systems for managing COVID-19 at Carleton for the longer term.

Sincerely,

The COVID-19 Core Team

Carolyn H. Livingston, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
Eric Runestad, Vice President and Treasurer
Elise Eslinger, Vice President and Chief of Staff
Eric Egge, Associate Dean of the College
John Bermel, Director of Security and Emergency Management
Helen Clarke, Director of Digital Strategy and Public Affairs