The COVID-19 Task Force met Thursday, August 4th. The main focus of the meeting was a discussion on a potential mask mandate for the first two weeks of the fall semester. Here are the notes from the meeting and next steps that we need from you:
Next steps for Augsburg Staff Union Members:
We want your feedback! Please complete the following short google form about your opinion and reasoning to either have a mask mandate at the start of the semester or to not have a mask mandate at the start of the semester. Please refer to the meeting notes listed below for more context about the discussion that was had at the COVID task force meeting.
- As of mid-last week, case rates were still fairly steady in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, but Hennepin County rate eked just above the CDC medium threshold. Ramsey County numbers all were in low community level. MPR calls it a “slow burn.”
- Campus case rates remain manageable, though student case numbers ticked up this past week.
- Potential draft messages and signage are ready if community level reach “high” and we would need to consider reinstating the mask mandate.
- A decision to move to a potential mask mandate will continue to be evaluated weekly based on community levels and institution level factors.
Minnesota Department of Health Updates
- BA.4 omicron sub variant accounts for 85 percent of cases in HHS Region 5 (Midwest)
- New sublineage, BA.2.75, increasing in frequency and has been identified in MN; does not seem to show greater immune evasion than BA.5
- Overview of mitigation strategies for 2022-23
- Base decisions on institution-level factors (vaccine coverage, ability to detect transmission, population risk of severe disease, masking policy, ventilation) in combination with COVID-19 Community Levels
- Sliding scale of efforts in: vaccination policy, testing access, testing strategies, isolation space, masking, and ventilation
- New reporting guidelines and new REDCAP form launching next week at COVID coordinator training
- Monkeypox update (39 confirmed cases in MN)
Chronicle Article: Higher ed vaccine mandates significantly decreased COVID deaths
Start of Fall Mask Mandate Discussion (no decisions for recommendations were made in the meeting)
- Discussed recommending a return-to-school indoor mask mandate (potentially starting Th, 8/25, expiring Sa 9/10, provided that Hennepin County is in low or medium level)
- It was talked about starting it earlier on the 22nd because of student move-in times.
- We discussed what would be the ultimate goal of the mask mandate. Here are the comments mentioned in the meeting:
- To reduce potential spread of COVID-19 at the start of the semester because of the amount of people that will be returning to campus and attending larger on-campus events.
- To minimize disruption at the start of classes for better student success.
- The following questions and comments were discussed at the meeting:
- Does it make sense to have masking at only large events and classrooms, or at all indoor common areas except for designated eating spaces?
- We also discussed that the type of mask is really important (n95 & kn95). We have to indicate what type of mask is effective in order to actually reduce transmission. Mike Grewe is trying to work with Student Government to obtain some KN95s before first-year move-in. There wouldn’t be a large stock of masks, but there would be some.
- Even if we don’t have 100% compliance, a mask mandate would still help reduce transmission.
- Does this mean athletes will have to wear masks when playing?
- Should this be a mask mandate or a recommendation?
- Macalester will have a mask mandate at the start of fall.
- Because there has not been a significant amount of people masking in the community, we need to determine why we would be reinstating a mask mandate on campus for the first two weeks if Hennepin County is not at a high community level.
- To what extent will it be enforced if a mask mandate is implemented?
- We ultimately did not come to a decision to recommend because of the amount of factors that still need to be considered at this time. We all agreed to reach out to the departments and groups that we represent and gather more feedback on this topic before we meet again next week.
Here is the Google Form link again to complete with your feedback:
We did not get to other items on the agenda at the meeting. As a result, we will be meeting again next week to continue our discussion on the potential of a mask mandate for the first two weeks of classes in fall and address remaining agenda items:
- Task Force Meeting Schedule
- COVID-19 statement for syllabi
- Residence Life planning
The staff union representative will continue to send weekly updates based on information gathered in the COVID Task Force meetings.