Message to Campus about the COVID-19 Dashboard and Decision-Making Framework

10 September 2021

Dear Members of the Carleton Community,

As we approach the official start of the academic year, today we launched a new COVID-19 dashboard to share data on testing and positive cases of the virus within our community. The dashboard has been updated to reflect the tests that have been processed and the cases we have recorded from Aug. 14 through today, and it will continue to be updated weekly on Friday afternoons throughout Fall Term.

The dashboard will be used to report:

  • the total number of new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the current week;
  • the 14-day positive rate, which is the percentage of all students, faculty, staff and regular contractors who test positive for COVID-19 over the preceding 14-day period;
  • the total number of COVID-19 tests administered by Carleton for the current week; and
  • through Sept. 24, results of the first and second rounds of baseline testing.

At times—including today—we will still be waiting for some of our test results on a Friday afternoon. When this happens, the data on the dashboard will be incomplete for the current week. Due to the baseline testing schedule, we expect that this will occur at least through Sept. 24. The dashboard will be updated as we receive new results.

The 14-day positive rate, which will be reported for the first time on Friday, Sept. 17, is the foundation for the decision-making framework the College will use this academic year to consider whether additional mitigation strategies are needed at any point during the term. Similar to the thresholds and action levels we used last year, this new framework was developed with Carleton’s consulting epidemiologist and describes various actions the College might take related to masking, testing, in-person activities, dining, residential life, off-campus travel and visitors. We will use the 14-day positive case rate of our campus community and other conditions in Rice County to inform our decisions.

The dashboard and associated framework are intended to provide insight into the public health metrics of the campus, as well as transparency in Carleton’s decision-making at this stage in the pandemic. These resources were developed in the context of our highly vaccinated community—98% of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, and 99.7% of students will be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15—which affords us significant protection against even highly transmissible variants.

It is important to acknowledge that we will continue to see cases of COVID-19 on our campus, especially as we return to an environment that does not require physical distancing or place limits on group sizes, as were necessary last year. Our COVID-19 vaccination requirement has made it possible for us to release some of these limitations, as the vaccines continue to prove to be highly protective against serious illness, and to limit the likelihood of significant transmission in a vaccinated community—consistent with our goals for the academic year. Fully vaccinated individuals also are no longer required to quarantine following exposure to someone who tests positive; instead, we are implementing a testing cadence to ensure close contacts are tested on the days they are most likely to show evidence of infection. This CDC-recommended quarantine strategy—which also includes mask-wearing indoors for close contacts—will limit interruptions to your classes or work as we continue to navigate this pandemic.

As we move forward with a return to more normal operations this year—relishing in the opportunities we will have to experience Carleton together in the residential living-learning environment where we are at our best—the dashboard will serve as our primary communications channel for sharing Carleton data, and it will be supplemented with email communications if important changes or issues arise. As we have learned since the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 continually evolves, and at times may necessitate changes to our decision-making framework. We will continue to monitor the public health metrics of our campus in the context of county, state, and national data, and we commit to following the evolving research, science and guidance to protect our Carleton community.

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