As many of you prepare to leave campus in the coming days, you and your families are undoubtedly thinking about what it means to travel and reunite with loved ones at a time when cases of COVID-19 are on the rise here in Minnesota and around much of the country. Knowing this, I want to share some additional context around the data posted today to our dashboard. I hope this will provide some reassurance as you transition to what I hope will be a restful and renewing winter break.
Last week, we recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19 within our on-campus community. This includes the seven cases referenced in last week’s action level email. Of these 14 cases, two were identified through random surveillance testing (one student, one non-student), two were identified through off-campus testing (both non-students), and 10 were tested either because they were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or because they were identified as a close contact of a positive case and were already in quarantine (nine students, one non-student).
Our testing, case investigation, and contact tracing processes are robust, and our in-house team has been exceptional at quickly identifying positive cases, close contacts, and likely sources of infection. Because of this, we have been efficient and consistent in moving people into spaces where they can safely isolate or quarantine on campus without posing a risk to our greater community.
Overwhelmingly—both now and throughout the term—we have found that exposure to the virus has come through off-campus contacts, whether spending time indoors at retail or dining establishments in Northfield or having close contact with friends and loved ones from outside of Carleton. As we watch case numbers rise in our surrounding community, our own increase in cases has not been surprising. And although the “Carleton bubble” is not airtight, our community’s collective commitment to abiding by the covenant has been to our great advantage. Today’s data shows that our 14-day infection rate remains below 1%, and our surveillance positivity rate—an indicator of likely infections throughout our entire on-campus community—is at 0.6%. These are strong and reliable markers of our campus environment.
This week, you all will have the opportunity to be tested for COVID-19 through saliva testing provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. This is a new opportunity that emerged within the past two weeks, and I strongly encourage you to participate. Even more importantly, I ask that you exercise caution during these last few days of the term—further limit your time with others, be vigilant with your hand-washing and mask-wearing, and closely monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19. If you are traveling away from campus, take another test within a few days of arrival and be mindful of the time you are spending outside of your home and with others. Above all else, be safe.