COVID-19 Status Blog

Return to campus for spring term 2022

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As in the fall semester, we return to campus this spring with heightened attention to our key mitigation protocols. The mitigation list should look familiar by now, but with the regional increase in the highly transmissible omicron variant, the following summary includes some important reminders and specifics about Augsburg’s protocols.

  • Monitoring symptoms and reporting cases.

    • There is some evidence that symptoms appear sooner with the omicron variant, particularly in vaccinated individuals. Paying attention to symptoms helps reduce transmission if people stay home when they are sick.

    • If you have symptoms, have tested positive, or are exposed to someone with COVID-19, please submit the self report form so that the Augsburg COVID Response Team can provide you with information and support applicable to your role and situation.

    • Students are encouraged to report illness or required isolation/quarantine to their instructors and to make every effort to keep up with coursework when isolating or in quarantine.

    • Instructors may contact Dean of Students Sarah Griesse when students report COVID-19 cases to you to ensure the appropriate follow up is undertaken. Shifts from face-to-face to remote instruction continue to require approval from the appropriate academic dean.

  • Indoor masking. 

    • Masks are required indoors on campus except in designated areas (see protocols). You should also consider wearing a mask in indoor or crowded outdoor settings off campus. Note: Both the City of Minneapolis and the City of St. Paul announced indoor mask mandates, effective Thursday, January 6.)

    • Well-fitted masks provide important protection. N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection. The next best options are multi-layered masks and double masking. See mask recommendations from MDH for more information.

    • There are some areas on campus where more consistent adherence to the mask mandate is needed, including informal study areas (e.g., Lindell Library, Hagfors Center, etc.) and the fitness center. Please pay attention to the mask requirement when you are in those spaces.

  • Limiting the number of people you are in close contact with where possible. 

    • In classrooms, this may mean assigned seating or structured activities that reduce the number of close interactions and maintain as much distance as the space allows.

    • In meetings and other activities, reducing the number of in-person attendees, increasing distance, and offering remote access alternatives are recommended when feasible.

  • Getting vaccinated or boosted. Find and schedule a vaccination appointment.

    • Augsburg strongly recommends but is not requiring the booster at this time. We do anticipate the need to track booster status in the near future, especially if new higher education protocols require quarantine for individuals who are not boosted or recently vaccinated.

    • Everyone 18 and older is eligible for a booster if it has been more than six months since you got your second Moderna vaccination, more than five months since you got your second Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination, or more than two months since the one-dose J&J vaccination. Most Auggies are vaccinated, but many had their last shot last spring or summer. The booster reduces the likelihood you will become infected and significantly reduces the chances of developing serious illness.

    • If the Minnesota Department of Health changes quarantine requirements for higher education to align with recent CDC recommendations, boosted or recently vaccinated individuals can avoid the disruption of required quarantine following an exposure to a positive case.

    • If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, it’s still not too late. Minnesota’s vaccination centers are ready to help you get your first or next dose. Also, if you got your first Pfizer or Moderna shot several months ago, you don’t have to start over; you can still schedule the second dose now, using the link above.

Thank you for your continued efforts to keep our community safe. As always, if you have questions, please submit them to the Augsburg Helpline.

Layers of mitigations can help fight the spread of COVID-19

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We are currently seeing a post-Thanksgiving bump in regional COVID-19 cases at the same time as the first case of the omicron variant has been detected in Minnesota. It is too early to know if the omicron variant will become the dominant variant and how that will affect COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations. Members of Augsburg’s COVID-19 Task Force participate in meetings with the Minnesota Department of Health and are staying on top of news and advice regarding the variant.

We do know that it is helpful to layer mitigations as a strategy to fight the spread of COVID-19. That means not just relying on one thing, such as the vaccine or a mask, but embracing several approaches to stop the spread.

Please keep all of these effective mitigations in mind, especially as the end of the semester approaches. “Layer” as many as you can into your activities and interactions.

  • Get vaccinated or get a booster if you haven’t already done so. All adults who were vaccinated at least six months ago now qualify for boosters. 
  • Pay attention to your symptoms:
    • Complete the #CampusClear daily symptom screening app whenever you come to campus or leave a residence hall unit.
    • Stay home and stay away from others if you are sick, whether you are vaccinated or not.  
  • Wear a well-fitted face mask in indoor campus spaces, except when eating in dining areas or when in one’s own residential unit or individual office with the door closed. It’s also a good idea to wear a well-fitted mask in indoor public spaces off campus, such as in stores, places of worship, and recreational facilities.
  • Minimize the number of people you are in close contact with. This will limit the number of people who will need to quarantine or get tested if you test positive for COVID-19.
  • Get tested if you experience symptoms or if you were in close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19.

If you are vaccinated and test positive for COVID-19, or if you are unvaccinated and test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to someone with COVID-19, complete the COVID-19 self-report form so that the Augsburg’s COVID-19 Response Team can follow up with you to ensure the appropriate next steps are taken.

Preparing for Thanksgiving

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As we approach Thanksgiving, when many of us will gather with friends and family, we need to keep in mind that case rates, positivity rates, and hospitalization rates are very high in Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metropolitan area. (See the 6-week trends in the COVID-19 Dashboard Metrics report.)

We encourage our community members to keep in mind the following advice from the Minnesota Department of Health:

  • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces, and wear masks in indoor public spaces, even when not required.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, do not host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • If you are gathering with a group of people from multiple households and potentially from different parts of the country, consider some additional precautions prior to gathering (e.g., lay low before you go, avoid crowded indoor spaces, get tested in advance) to further reduce risk.
  • Protect young children and those with weakened immune systems by getting vaccinated.

Also, please remember that, as of November 19, all adults 18 and older are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot at least six months after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or two months after the first dose of Johnson & Johnson. Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Augsburg Campuswide COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

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As of Monday, August 30, more than 80% of Augsburg students, staff, and faculty were fully vaccinated. Additionally, more than 86% have at least one dose, so we expect the fully vaccinated number to continue to increase over the next few weeks.

Augsburg’s vaccinate rate combines student and faculty/ staff rates. The student rate is calculated using an aggregate report from the Minnesota Department of Health, which covers nearly 94% of students, in all programs, registered for the fall semester. This MDH report does not provide the status of individual students, but does confirm the aggregate number of registered students who have at least one dose of the vaccine and who are fully vaccinated. The faculty and staff rate is a much smaller portion of the overall rate and currently is based on self-reported data from employees. The faculty and staff rate will be updated with actual data when the status of all employees’ vaccinations have been verified.

As previously communicated, Augsburg extended its mask mandate through September in order to provide additional time for those in the process of getting vaccinated to receive their final doses. During this time, it is important that we all continue to follow the behaviors that will help keep you and those around you healthy.

Finally, we still need to confirm the individual vaccination status for some students, and we will continue to follow up with those individuals until all students have met the requirements of Augsburg’s vaccine mandate. Failure to meet the mandate requirements may result in disciplinary review, so if you receive an email regarding your vaccination status, please respond to it promptly.

 

Augsburg Extends Indoor Mask Mandate through September

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Due to persistent high COVID-19 regional transmission rates and the need for additional time for a number of students to get their final vaccination doses, Augsburg is extending the indoor face covering requirement through the month of September.

Because the COVID-19 Delta variant is airborne, it is important to wear a mask in any indoor space where others are present or could be present before or after you were there. This includes:

  • study areas (e.g., in Hagfors Center, Lindell Library, etc.),
  • lobby areas,
  • restrooms,
  • hallways, stairwells, and elevators,
  • classrooms and meeting rooms,
  • and other shared or common spaces.

Indoor masks are not required in one’s own residential unit or individual office with the door closed, or when eating in designated campus dining areas. Campus dining areas currently include the Dining Commons and Einsteins coffee shop in Christensen Center.

Due to staffing vacancies, Nabo and Kafe Kafeega will not be open until later in the semester. When those venues open, additional spaces may be designated as dining areas. Eating outdoors on campus is also a good
option, when weather permits. Masks or face coverings are not required outdoors on campus, although there may be specific outdoor events where masks may be required if close contact and large crowds are expected.

We will continue to monitor the regional transmission rate and report weekly on Augsburg’s COVID-19 Dashboard during September and adjust mitigation protocols based on campus and regional transmission levels. If you have questions about COVID-19 requirements in specific situations, please contact the helpline@augsburg.edu, and your questions will be forwarded to the appropriate party.

Augsburg Reinstates Indoor Mask Policy Due to Substantial Regional COVID-19 Transmission Rates

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all individuals—vaccinated and unvaccinated—wear face coverings in public indoor spaces in any county where the COVID-19 transmission rate is substantial or high.

During the last weekend in July, cases in Hennepin and Ramsey counties moved to a “substantial” transmission rate (between 50 and 99.99 cases per 100,000 population over 7 days, as defined by the CDC). As a result, Augsburg reinstated the indoor face covering requirement, effective August 3.

All students, staff, and faculty are required to wear face coverings in indoor campus spaces, except when eating in dining areas or when in one’s own residential unit or individual office with the door closed. This applies to all U.S. Augsburg locations. (International Augsburg locations are following local protocols.) Masks or face coverings are not required outdoors. 

The indoor mask requirement is expected to remain in effect until regional case rates return to moderate or low levels. Augsburg has added the 7-day regional case rate for Hennepin and Ramsey counties to its COVID-19 dashboard report, which is updated weekly. 

With the increasing prevalence of the significantly more transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, Augsburg will continue to adapt its public health protocols this fall based on campus case and vaccination rates, regional transmission rates, and other factors on campus. 

While masks or face coverings provide an important additional layer of protection during times when transmission levels are significant, the most important protection against severe illness from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. That’s why Augsburg remains committed to supporting individuals who would like information about or help with COVID-19 vaccinations. Information provided will remain confidential to the Augsburg COVID-19 Response Team.

Augsburg Announces COVID-19 Vaccination Policy

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To provide the safest possible conditions for teaching, learning and working, Augsburg University has implemented a COVID-19 Vaccination Policy for students and employees, with documented exemptions and extensions allowed for the 2021-22 academic year.

By August 26, students, faculty, and staff must have:

  • received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; or
  • been vaccinated with another vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO); or
  • filed a medical or non-medical vaccine exemption form with the Dean of Students (for students) or Augsburg Human Resources (for employees); or
  • filed a 31-day deadline extension request with the Dean of Students (for students) or Augsburg Human Resources (for employees).

See the Vaccine Mandate page for information about filing an extension or COVID-19 vaccine exemption, campus requirements for unvaccinated individuals, and additional frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Augsburg remains committed to supporting individuals who would like information about or help with COVID-19 vaccinations. Faculty and staff may contact Human Resources for support. Students may  complete this COVID-19 questionnaire to have a member of the Augsburg Response Team provide additional information.

 

Indoor Mask Mandate on Campus Expires June 26

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Augsburg will lift the campus-wide indoor mask requirement as of Saturday, June 26. If we experience an outbreak of cases on campus, we may temporarily reinstate the indoor mask policy until case rates subside.

As we transition through the summer, working to get as many people vaccinated as possible, there may still be some situations on campus where masks will be required given the particulars of the situation (e.g., large groups with off-campus participants). In those cases, the mask requirement will be communicated to participants in advance to make sure people come prepared to wear a mask.

Of course, any individual who chooses to continue to wear a mask indoors (or outdoors) on campus may continue to do so. The CDC does recommend that unvaccinated people wear masks, as they remain at risk for contracting COVID-19, including newer, more infectious variants.

Augsburg Is Committed to Promoting Vaccinations

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Augsburg President Pribbenow has decided not to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations at this time based on three factors: (1) the culture of Augsburg, where our strength comes from common purpose and shared conviction, (2) public health data, including COVID-19 case rates and the vaccination data we are now gathering, and (3) trends among our peer institutions. Irrespective of the policy, we are committed to doing the work necessary to achieve the highest vaccination rate possible by fall.

As part of that effort, Augsburg University has joined the COVID-19 College Vaccination Challenge launched by the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. 

In joining the challenge, Augsburg is committing to three significant efforts:

  • Engage every student, faculty, and staff member. The response to date from our faculty/staff survey (with an 85% response rate so far) indicates that a remarkable 97% of staff and full-time faculty will be vaccinated by August 16! Although the survey did not include part-time faculty, because fall adjunct appointments are not yet finalized, we will include all instructors in our vaccination outreach efforts.

    We also have initiatives underway to track and increase vaccination rates among students. We will be working with the Minnesota Department of Health over the summer to review aggregate vaccination rates among Augsburg students. To complement that effort, we will conduct a student survey asking students to let us know if they need help getting vaccinated this summer. These efforts will also include the Augsburg students who will register during SOAR and in the weeks after.

  • Organize the college community by identifying champions for vaccine efforts and implementing a plan to get as many members of the campus vaccinated as possible. The Augsburg Day Student Government has created a student-led video to encourage students to get vaccinated, and our COVID-19 Response Team is preparing resources and support for students who want additional information about or help getting vaccinated.

  • Deliver vaccine access for all. Augsburg has been promoting information about free, no-appointment vaccines in the metropolitan area and has partnered with People’s Center Clinic to offer several vaccine clinics for Auggies just across the street from campus. We also are holding on-campus Johnson & Johnson vaccination events during student orientation SOAR events this summer, which are available to all students, staff, and faculty, as well as their families and friends. (See A-mail for details.) 

Augsburg Adjusts Capacity Requirements for Campus Events

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Under Minnesota’s phased approach to lifting many of the statewide COVID-19 restrictions—which was announced by Gov. Tim Walz on May 6—the physical distancing requirements and capacity limits in a variety of venues ended on May 28. 

In anticipation of this change, the University Events team has adjusted the spacing and capacity guidelines for Augsburg events. Signage on campus about capacity limits in classrooms, meeting rooms, and other spaces also is being removed. 

Augsburg students, faculty, and staff should continue to follow these Augsburg requirements:

  • Complete the #CampusClear daily symptom screening app before you come to campus or leave your residence hall 
  • Wear face coverings indoors, except when in your residential unit or individual office
  • Stay home if you are sick 
  • Report symptoms, exposures, and positive COVID-19 test results using the self-report form. Those fully vaccinated need only report if they receive a positive COVID-19 test, and will not be required to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19..

Finally, Augsburg encourages everyone to get a vaccine. View information about walk ups for the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the State Fairgrounds. 

You may even get free tickets to the State Fair or Valleyfair!