The COVID-19 Task Force had a meeting on Thursday, March 3rd. Here are the meeting notes from the Augsburg Staff Union representative.
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Updates:
- Situation update: Hospitalizations continue to decline; lowest case rate in MN since last August
- Testing supplies are available, and FEMA will continue funding testing through at least June
- FEMA funding for Vault community testing sites is set to expire March 31; may or may not be extended
- Discussion of new CDC guidance; MDH is still updating their Institution of Higher Education guidance:
- “Shift toward more relevant metrics given current levels of population immunity and tools available”
- “Measures should focus on minimizing the impact of severe COVID-19 illness on health and society”
- CDC Community Levels
- CDC PowerPoint
- New CDC guidance was announced Friday, so last week’s dashboard is still based on the previous guidance
- On-campus transmission level continues to be very low, with no student or employee cases confirmed for the last full week of February as of the time the dashboard was published.
HR Policy Update:
- HR will be publishing a policy supplement (an addition to the original Mandatory COVID-19 Immunization Policy for Staff and Faculty Employees of Augsburg University) this week, specifying a weekly testing requirement and a campus mask requirement for those staff and faculty employees who are unvaccinated.
- HR will announce their intention to limit exemptions for staff and faculty employees to only the two federally-required exemptions (religious and medical) for the 2022-23 academic year, eliminating the conscientious objection exemption that Augsburg made available for 2021-22.
- HR hopes to have this policy sent out by the end of the day today, Thursday 3/3/22.
Testing recommendations after Spring Break:
- Recommend that people who traveled or socialized with different groups of people than usual get tested before returning
- Update on on-campus testing opportunities- working through how to make the tests possible on campus. Currently working on finding a medical provider to order the tests. Having a meeting with MDH today to resolve the issues we have been running into. Hoping to have the testing back next week.
Considerations around potential changes to indoor mask mandate:
- There was a preliminary discussion today about the potential for a change in the current mask mandate on campus. Ultimately, no decisions were made in the meeting, but here are notes from the discussion. The discussion that the COVID Task Force had in today’s meeting is being relayed to the President who is meeting later today to discuss the mask mandate on campus:
- MDH is stating to follow CDC guidance
- Timing: There was a discussion on how we need to give people prep time before we officially lift the mask mandate.
- There was also a discussion on how any decision needs to be sensitive and consider the concerns of faculty/staff/students who are immunocompromised and/or who have close family members who are immunocompromised and need to still wear a mask. Additionally, there was a discussion on how children under 5 still are not eligible for vaccination.
- The following questions were brought up during the meeting to consider:
- What if a faculty/staff/student still wants their class or the people that they interact with to wear a mask?
- Do students/faculty/staff who are not vaccinated still need to wear a mask?
- Would faculty get to change course modalities if they do not want to teach unmasked?
- Could students request to change modalities in their courses?
- Could staff change modalities with their operations?
- What would be the timing for lifting the mask mandate? Spring Break or later?
- If we lift it, what does that look like if we have to go back to masks?
- Would it be possible to have masks required in the classroom but not elsewhere on campus?
- Of note, these questions were not answered during the meeting. They were brought up as considerations.
We set up a Google Form so Augsburg Staff Union members could state their questions or concerns to be addressed at the meeting. One question was submitted this week:
- Q: “When will the indoor mask mandate be lifted on campus or will it be anytime soon?”
- A: No final decisions have been made at this time. Our COVID Task Force discussion from today’s meeting is being sent to the President to begin the discussion on any potential change to the current mask mandate.
Please note: Urgent questions related to COVID-19 should not be submitted via the Google Form, those questions should continue to be sent to email@example.com, calling 612-474-3100, and/or by using the Augsburg self-reporting form.
The 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.