The COVID-19 Task Force had a meeting on Thursday, October 21st. Here are the meeting notes from the Augsburg Staff Union representative.
Minnesota Department of Health Updates:
- 3,000 cases of COVID-19/week in the 18-24 year old range in MN (down from 4,000/week in previous report).
- Statewide positivity (8.3%) and hospital usage still very high (higher than spring 2021 “alpha” wave).
- MDH encourages higher education institutions to maintain strong indoor mask policies and other campus mitigation efforts. Transmission rates are good on campuses in general, but MDH is seeing transmission in the community.
- Vaccinated individuals are 6.4% of total cases in MN and 1.4% of vaccinated have tested positive for COVID.
- Students (specifically) can use community sites for routine testing, but institutions should list it as one of the options.
- CDC change to guidance: Vaccinated individuals should get tested 5-7 days after exposure. The website will be updated with this information and the Response Team will update their communications.
- The latest vaccination report is available on the Dashboard website.
- There is also a link on the Dashboard website to a new CDC report about risk of infection and death for unvaccinated individuals.
- Doing an on-campus testing event will most likely not be happening at this time.
- Students, Staff, and Faculty are encouraged to go to People’s Center for testing. No appointment is necessary, but you can also schedule appointments via phone.
- In the meeting, a member of the COVID Task Force asked, “Do you need to be symptomatic?” The answer that was provided was that this question did not come up in conversation with People’s Center when discussing testing.
- The COVID tests are an oral swab test. The results are provided in a phone call, and they will leave a message only if the test is negative.
COVID Policy Hold:
- Emails have been sent to students about getting their vaccination cards or exemptions submitted. Students have been responding to these emails.
- The question brought up in the meeting that a student could ask was, “What’s going to happen if I don’t follow through?” Overall, the answer addressed in the meeting was that Augsburg is really trying to work with students on helping them be in compliance at this time.
- A point brought up in the meeting by a member of the COVID Task Force was that Faculty will need clarity on how they can answer questions from students about compliance with the vaccine mandate.
- More information will need to be provided about the hold to deans to share with faculty.
Indoor Mask Mandate Discussion:
- 2 year history of campus/regional case rates
- Main question proposed in the discussion: At what point, under what conditions, and in what contexts, might we reduce campus mask requirements?
- Some other metro area schools have similar mask mandates as Augsburg, and many are comparable to our situation with respect to commuting, visitors, etc.
- Student government was in support of keeping the mask mandate unless community spread was lower.
- Setting a metric (vs a date) for lifting the mask mandate could be helpful, but the COVID Task Force will still need to have a conversation about the context at that time that the metric is met.
- Questions and Comments posed in the meeting:
- Is there a sense of urgency about changing what appears to be working?
- What does it mean if we had to reinstate masks if rates went up?
- If there is a change, we need to be very clear about when/if people can take their mask off.
- Masks are becoming a habit.
- With the holidays coming up, there may be an impact on rates we don’t know yet.
- We’ve followed the science to date.
- Masks send a message that we care about people’s safety. We are protecting the community.
- Overall, this was primarily a discussion about benefits of the mask mandate at the present time.
- It was also discussed how it will be important to talk with the faculty senate and staff senate as well about any potential future changes.
We set up a Google Form so Augsburg Staff Union members could state their questions or concerns to be addressed at the meeting. The following questions were requested in advance of the meeting:
- Q: Will there be an on-campus flu shot opportunity for students, faculty, and staff this year?
- A: Nothing is planned at this time. Elaine Eschenbacher is working on getting more information about what would be possible with People’s Center.
- Q: What are the next steps for faculty and staff who are out of compliance with the vaccine mandate?
- A: Dawn Miller responded to this question in the meeting. Dawn stated that Augsburg is waiting to finalize the policy once they receive final guidelines from OSHA. Reminders have been sent to faculty and staff who are out of compliance.
- A COVID Task Force member asked a follow-up question: Can the final compliance policy be sent out to all staff and faculty once completed? (Not just those who are out of compliance)
- Answer from Leif Anderson and Dawn Miller: Yes. The policy will be sent to everyone’s email and will also be published on the HR website and in other areas.
Please note: Urgent questions related to COVID-19 should not be submitted via the Google Form, those questions should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 612-474-3100, and/or by using the Augsburg self-reporting form.
The interim staff union representative will continue to send weekly updates based on information gathered in the COVID Task Force meetings and questions asked in the google form.