COVID-19 Status Blog

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!

Outdoor Mask Mandate Lifted Across Minnesota

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Yesterday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced a phased approach to lifting many of the statewide COVID-19 protocols in the coming months. The first of these—effective at noon today—is that masks are no longer required outdoors, though they are still recommended if you are in a large group or a crowded area where distancing is not possible, and individuals, of course, may continue to choose to wear face coverings. 

Masks are still required in all indoor spaces except when you are in your residential unit or individual office.

All Minnesotans Age 16 and Older Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccination as of March 30

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On Friday, March 26, Gov. Tim Walz announced that all Minnesotans age 16 or older will be eligible to make vaccination appointments as of March 30.

Available vaccination appointments are published on the State of Minnesota’s vaccination finder web site.

There is also a grassroots app that collects info on all the vax appointments available so that you don’t have to go to each vaccination venue’s site individually:   https://www.vaccinespotter.org/MN/ .

Vaccination Timelines and Clinical Trial Results

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Vaccination Timelines

The best resource for information about vaccination timelines in Minnesota is the Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector, a tool where you sign up to be alerted when you are eligible to receive a vaccine. The tool then will connect you to resources to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Health officials say that you should take the first opportunity you have to get a vaccine because each of the vaccines significantly reduces hospitalizations and deaths.

The state has published a timeline for vaccination by factors such as age, job type, and health status. The Vaccine Connector site proclaims that, “[b]y this summer, every Minnesotan who wants a shot will be able to get one!”

For now, according to state officials, “the goal for the first, limited doses of COVID-19 vaccine is to immunize for impact – meaning [that vaccines are offered] to those at highest risk of getting COVID-19 and those most at risk of severe disease and complications if they get COVID-19.”

The groups that the state prioritized for vaccination through the first week of March included healthcare workers, people 65 years and older, and K-12 teachers and childcare workers. The State of Minnesota prioritized K-12 separately from higher education, stating that  because not all students can successfully social distance or maintain masks, childcare staff and K-12 educators are at higher risk.  Additionally, children going back to childcare and school is needed in order for parents to return back to work.

For more detailed information, visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s About COVID-19 Vaccine page. This page includes considerations for pregnant people, people who are breastfeeding, and immunocompromised people. It also includes information about vaccine safety and what to do after getting vaccinated.

Vaccine Efficacy

Health officials say that you should take the first opportunity you have to get a vaccine because each of the vaccines significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

You may have heard different efficacy rates reported for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines compared with the more recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Efficacy is a measure of how the vaccine performed during clinical trials and is not a predictor of effectiveness in the general population.

Example: Among the 28,207 people in the Moderna test, 225 in the placebo group contracted COVID-19, while 11 in the vaccine group got the virus. If the vaccine had no effect, we would have expected 225 people to get the virus in each group, but the vaccine group had 214 fewer cases. Efficacy is calculated as the reduction in cases among the vaccine group as a percent of the total cases in the placebo group:  214/225 = 95%. In other words, in this test population, the vaccine was associated with 95% fewer cases in the vaccine group relative to the placebo group.  See more about the Moderna vaccine on the CDC web site.

Efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for reducing cases was 74% in U.S. clinical trials, and was 100% for reducing hospitalizations after 28 days relative to the placebo group. As noted above, all three vaccines approved for use in the United States have very strong efficacy rates relative to severe cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations, and death.

 

Moderate Transmission Rate On Campus, Statewide Rates Continue to Decline

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Augsburg’s on-campus student case rate moved into the moderate range (1% to 3% of the on-campus student population) during the week of February 9 – 13.

Most of the recent positive cases were identified through the Athletics Department’s surveillance testing program, which tests all active student-athletes and Athletics staff three times per week.  As a result of the recent test results, a significant number of student-athletes are following the isolation and quarantine protocols recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health, which also has practice and competition schedules for a number of teams.

We are grateful to Augsburg’s Athletics trainers, coaches, and leadership for the quick response in following up with each of the individuals who tested positive or were in close contact with someone who tested positive in order to help contain the risk of additional exposure or transmission.

Meanwhile, statewide metrics in Minnesota remain encouraging. Cases and test positivity rates continued to decline slightly in the first half of February, and vaccine supplies are beginning to increase.

Low Transmission Rate On Campus and Statewide

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Augsburg’s on-campus transmission rate has returned to a low level (less than 1% of the on-campus student population over 14 days). See Augsburg’s January 30 COVID-19 Dashboard for more detail.

Statewide trends are also encouraging. On January 31, the number of daily cases reported in Minnesota fell below 1,000 for the first time since September. Importantly, the decline in cases is not driven by lower levels of testing. Minnesota’s test positively rate is currently 3.3%, the lowest since late June and early July last summer. See the latest report from MPR’s David Montgomery for these and other recent data from Minnesota’s COVID-19 public health reports.

Increased Testing, Continued Focus on Public Health Practices for Spring Semester 2021

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As we start the spring semester, it remains true that our best protection to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is to wear a mask, maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from others, regularly wash our hands, and stay home when we feel sick. This is especially important now that the new, more contagious, variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in Minnesota.

Each day when you come to campus or leave your on-campus residence, remember to complete the Campus Clear app. It’s important that you stay home if you have any symptoms, or if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19, and submit the Augsburg self-reporting form so our response team can guide you through the appropriate actions to take.

To support the health of our campus community, Augsburg continues to operate in alignment with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health, including the January 6 executive order from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. Below is an update about what to expect in various areas on the Minneapolis campus as we launch the semester. For more details, go to the Auggie Guide Spring 2021, which was emailed last week to all students.

COVID-19 testing. The Minnesota Department of Health strongly recommends more frequent COVID-19 testing this spring. Testing is much more readily available now than last summer or fall, so individuals may consider getting tested regularly, even if you don’t have symptoms or a known exposure. See the updated COVID-19 testing information on Augsburg’s Outbreak Planning site for details about testing timing and resources.

Residence halls. Augsburg’s residence halls remain open for all resident students. The policies and practices that we implemented this fall were effective in mitigating outbreaks in residence halls. Our current guest policy limitations—two guests (who are also Augsburg resident students) per residential unit—will remain in effect.

Dining services. The Commons and Einsteins will remain open for food service for the spring semester. Christensen Center Commons offers grab-and-go items for all meals as well as expanded hot breakfast and lunch service. Einstein’s provides hot sandwiches and coffee drinks along with chilled beverages and grab-and-go items. The Commons accepts all meal plans, including Flex points, and credit/debit cards; payment at Einstein’s is limited to Flex points, meal replacement, and credit/debit cards. There are no cash transactions at either location at this time. Kafe Kafeega in the Hagfors Center and Nabo remain closed for food service.

Classes. As was the case in the fall, in the spring term Augsburg will offer a number of classes with face-to-face components. Across the state, the Minnesota Department of Health did not report transmission in classroom environments when masking and physical distancing were maintained. We will be offering more classes with a face-to-face component this spring. Students can check course modalities in Records and Registration. Any changes that become necessary, owing to our campus transmission levels or official public health requirements, will be announced. Instructors who determine, on the basis of particular issues in a given course, that a change of modality is required must file the change with the Registrar’s Office for it to become official.

Student services. Several student services will continue to be provided virtually—including Academic Advising, the Center for Counseling and Wellness, the CLASS Office, the Enrollment Center (Student Financial Services and Registrar), and Multicultural Student Services. Students may call or email to set up virtual appointments. In specific instances, there are face-to-face meetings available. Please see the Student Services Index for specific hours and contact information.

Events. Campus events will continue to follow the latest recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health and most recent executive order. Please continue to work with the department of university events for proper event execution. External and departmentally hosted events will continue to be paused for the spring semester.

Access to campus buildings. Fob access to campus buildings for students, staff, and faculty will continue through the spring semester. As we return to campus, we ask that students pay particular attention to consistently wearing masks (even when alone) and maintaining distance when using study rooms, remote learning rooms, and common study spaces. In all indoor spaces, it is important that people continue to wear masks, even when alone, in order to protect people who may enter the space after you.

Athletics and fitness center. The gymnasium and athletics fitness centers will be open to all students, staff, and faculty (no guests). The facilities are managed on a first-come-first-served basis, and the number of people will be limited to allow for proper distancing. Those entering the facilities must wear sign in, display their Campus Clear app, and have their temperature taken. Masks are required at all times when using the athletic facilities, including during exercise. The dome and ice rink will have more limited hours and availability; see the Athletics information on the Student Services Index for specific hours and contact information.

For intercollegiate athletic teams, the Athletics Department will adhere to the robust testing protocol outlined by the NCAA and Minnesota Department of Health, which ensures student-athletes and necessary athletics staff are tested frequently and individuals with COVID-19 or exposed to someone with the virus are quickly moved into isolation and quarantine to mitigate spread.

Campus operations. Augsburg’s current modified operations are already in line with the latest recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health following the governor’s January 6 executive order. Augsburg’s Coronavirus Task Force will continue to monitor any changes in public health recommendations and guidelines.

14 Days Until the Start of Spring Semester

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Augsburg’s on-campus transmission rates remain low during the first week of the year-end break. No new on-campus student cases or employee cases were confirmed, as of December 26, for the week. As always, because of the standard delay in positive test reports, additional cases may be confirmed in the future for prior weeks.

Monday, December 28, marks 14 days before the first day of spring-term classes. Dean of Students Sarah Griesse sent the following email to all students to support safe public health practices over the New Year holiday and in preparation for the beginning of the spring semester:

 

Dear Auggies,

In 14 days, Augsburg’s spring semester begins. Starting off the term being healthy and rested leads to greater success. Now is the time to minimize your interactions to close contacts in a closed group. December 28 marks 14 days before the first day of class. It is the COVID incubation period. This is a good time to review your plans for the next two weeks and consider what steps you need to take to prepare for the semester ahead.

As the year comes to a close, the Minnesota Department of Health provides information for Safer Holiday Celebrations. A good read before welcoming in the New Year, 2021.

Always remember to…..
* Wear a mask/face covering.
* Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
* Wash your hands regularly.

Looking forward to a Happy New Year!!!

Sarah

Sarah Griesse, Ph.D.
Dean of Students
Augsburg University

Pronouns: she/ her/ hers