Message to Campus about the Current Action Level

11 November 2020

Dear Members of the Carleton Community,

Today, the COVID-19 Core Team made the decision to raise the College’s action level to Level 3: High. An increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in Rice County and the state of Minnesota was a key factor in our decision-making, as recently identified cases within our campus community were believed to be contracted through off-campus exposure.

Although the action level 3 summary on Carleton’s COVID-19 dashboard calls for classes and programs to move online and for students to shelter in place, we are not implementing those changes at this time because we have not experienced transmission through program and classroom settings. Based on the data we have gathered and our experience during this term, in order to limit the potential exposure to and transmission of the virus, we are announcing the following changes:

  • Students may not leave campus, including into the Northfield community, except to attend medical appointments, go to work, obtain necessities like medication and groceries, or return home upon completion of the term. Northfield Option students should limit their travel between campus and home.
  • All in-person varsity, club, and intramural practices and activities will be discontinued beginning Friday, Nov. 13, through the remainder of the term. PEAR facilities will remain open for classes and recreation.
  • Targeted testing has been expanded and includes close contacts of positive cases, as well as close work groups and teams that have experienced positive cases.
  • Where practical, faculty may choose to transition in-person class activities online.  However, because the classroom, studio, and laboratory settings are currently operating with six-foot or greater physical distancing and other recommended public health protocols, they are not likely contributors to disease transmission.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to be tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving campus for winter break. We have made a request to the Minnesota Department of Health to obtain free, at-home saliva tests for all students, which students will be able to self-administer and return by mail. We expect the tests to arrive by Wednesday, Nov. 18; more information is forthcoming.
  • Group 2 employees who can complete their work from home should plan to do so for the remainder of the term. As outlined in a Nov. 10 email from Human Resources, supervisors should be flexible with their employees, who may be balancing additional personal commitments due to school district learning model changes. 

We continue to expect that all members of our campus community abide by the covenant, wear a mask, observe physical distancing, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, monitor and track symptoms of COVID-19, and stay home when you are ill. Students should also re-evaluate and/or reduce your pods at this time to ensure you are interacting with as few people as possible.

As we have learned throughout this pandemic, decisions are seldom made in isolation. While the most recent campus data is available on the COVID-19 Dashboard, a number of other factors that you won’t see on the dashboard were crucial in our decision-making this week. Importantly:

  • The recent rise in cases of COVID-19 within Rice County is significant. The latest preliminary data shows a 14-day case rate of 77.39 per 10,000 residents. This is up from 40.3 for the two weeks prior.
  • We have continued to experience delays in receiving the results of COVID-19 tests conducted through surveillance testing. While this is an external factor that the College cannot control, it has an impact on our ability to initiate case investigation and contact tracing and quickly move affected individuals into quarantine and isolation.  
  • In addition to the six new positive cases identified within our campus community for our most recent reporting week (Nov. 1-7), rapid tests conducted by Student Health and Counseling since Saturday have revealed seven additional positive cases within our community.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health has advised all higher education institutions to increase their mitigation efforts, regardless of on-campus indicators. It is important to know that many of the actions the state is recommending are already standard practice for Carleton this term.

We will continue to evaluate data and monitor the impacts of the pandemic on our community and beyond. As a result, the situation may require that the actions we are taking today to shift. Your continued flexibility is deeply appreciated.

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
Gretchen Hofmeister, Associate Dean of the College
John Bermel, Director of Security and Emergency Management
Helen Clarke, Director of Digital Strategy and Public Affairs