Questions and Answers

Saint Mary’s University has compiled the following answers to questions you may have.

Why has the university required universal masking?
Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. Hennepin, Olmsted, and Winona counties are all counties of substantial COVID-19 transmission per the CDC. In addition, the city of Minneapolis and the county of Winona are recommending that everyone resume masking in indoor public settings. We are adopting those recommendations for the safety of the university community.

When might the universal masking requirement end?
When COVID-19 transmission levels decrease, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends waiting a full two weeks before readjusting protocols in order to assess whether COVID-19 transmission levels are, in fact, declining. We will follow that guideline.

Will everyone still have to wear masks if the majority of the community is vaccinated?
Our universal masking requirement will remain in place as long as Hennepin, Olmsted, and Winona counties are counties of high or substantial transmission of COVID-19. We may relax the masking requirement once that is no longer the case. However, some masking will be required until 85-90% of each campus community is fully vaccinated.

Can face shields be used instead of masks?
Face shields may be used in addition to cloth face masks or face coverings but not as a replacement.

Will warnings or sanctions be issued against students and staff who don't wear masks as required?
Yes. However, the most effective way to encourage individuals to wear masks is to ask them to do so directly and politely. This was the purpose of our pledge, “Protect myself and others in a spirit of generosity. I will keep myself and those around me safe from COVID-19 by wearing a mask, conducting a daily self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms, using hand sanitizer, washing my hands frequently, practicing social distancing, and participating in contact tracing programs as necessary.”

What about our external partners who work on campus?
We expect all who work on campus to follow Saint Mary’s protocols.

Is the university requiring the COVID-19 vaccination?
With full FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Saint Mary’s University expects all students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated, unless an exemption is filed. We are asking everyone, in good faith, to fill out proof of vaccination or a medical or non-medical exemption form by Friday, Oct. 8.

Is the university providing exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement?
Yes, the university is providing medical and non-medical exemptions for students and employees consistent with Minnesota statutes. A medical exemption is available if the vaccination is medically contraindicated. A non-medical exemption is available if the COVID-19 vaccination is against your beliefs.

What is the vaccination proof process? What do I need to provide?
Students, faculty, and staff should log in to the health portal using their Saint Mary’s username and password.

Once logged in:

  1. Select “My Forms” and then click “COVID-19 Immunization History.”
  2. Select the type of vaccination and date(s) received.
  3. Upload an image of your vaccination card (i.e., a picture from your phone).
  4. Click “Submit”.

All documentation related to this process is self-service and will be managed through the health portal. Individuals are required to file proof of vaccination or a certification of exemption.

What is the vaccination exemption process?
Students, faculty, and staff should log in to the health portal using their Saint Mary’s username and password.

Once logged in:

  1. Select “My Forms” and then click “COVID-19 Immunization History.”
  2. Access forms to obtain a medical or non-medical exemption.
  3. Upload completed forms (i.e., a picture from your phone).
    1. Medical exemptions will require a doctor’s statement.
    2. Non-medical exemptions will require a notarized signature.
  4. Click “Submit”.

Where can I find a notary public?
Local banks and post offices are the best places to find a notary public. In Minnesota, you can find a notary public in your area by using Find a Notary. In Wisconsin, you can find a notary public in your area by using the WI Notary Public Search. Narrow your search using a city and a zip code. In Illinois, you can find a notary public in your area using the IL Notary Public Search. A Google search with "Find a notary in (insert appropriate states)" will result in similar notary search services by state.

Will my exemption form be challenged or reviewed for acceptance?
Your exemption form will only be reviewed to assure it is accurately executed and notarized, as appropriate. It will not be challenged or reviewed for acceptance based on content.

What if I (or my son or daughter) tested positive for COVID-19 and have antibody immunity? Is the vaccine required?
You are still required to submit proof of a vaccination or file an exemption by the Friday, Oct. 8, deadline.

Will I have to fill out an exemption form again in second semester or next academic year?
At this point, it is unlikely that you will be required to complete an exemption form for second semester. No decision has yet been made on whether you will be required to complete the exemption form yearly. Please keep an eye on our newsletters and emails, as we will be in communication as more information is available.

When do we have to have vaccinations?
The timing and number of doses is different for each of the vaccines. You must be fully vaccinated no later than Friday, Oct. 8.

Will there be extensions granted for the vaccination if I am not able to meet the deadline?
Extensions will only be granted for significant extenuating circumstances.

If I am a student taking all of my classes online, do I need to be vaccinated?
Yes, if you are an online only student, we still require a vaccine unless you file for a medical or non-medical exemption. Many of our online students do come on campus for student services, events, commencement, or other reasons.

Do course-contracted faculty members or student advisers who are doing all teaching or advising online need to be vaccinated?
Yes. Those working fully online are still required to file proof of vaccination or an exemption. Since we are requiring the vaccination or an exemption for our fully online students, we believe the online faculty and advisers should be treated similarly. Some of our online faculty and advisers come to campus for academic resources, events, commencement, or other reasons.

If I am vaccinated, will I still have to quarantine if I am a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19? What if I am vaccinated but test positive?
Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine. Fully vaccinated people who have come into close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 must be tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask indoors and outdoors for 14 days. Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who test positive should isolate for 10 days.

Can I get any of the vaccines?
While technically any of the vaccines meets the vaccination requirements, as a Lasallian Catholic university, it is important to offer the guidance and the perspective of the Catholic Church on vaccines. As such, the following resources may be helpful:

 

What if I’ve lost my vaccination card?
You can obtain your COVID-19 vaccination records through the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection. In Illinois, you can access your COVID-19 vaccination record through the Illinois resident Immunization Portal. In Wisconsin, you can access your COVID-19 vaccination record through the Wisconsin Immunization Registry.

Will my professors (or my supervisors) know if I am not vaccinated?
The university does not intend to share a student’s vaccination status with a professor or supervisor, nor does it intend to share an employee’s vaccination status with supervisors.

Where can I get vaccinated?

 

Why did the university decide to implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement once Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval was obtained?
This decision is based on the most current information we have about COVID-19:

  • COVID-19 cases are increasing in Minnesota. A significant portion of the new positive COVID-19 cases in the state are attributed to the delta variant.
  • The delta variant is more easily transmissible which is of great concern to us as our students live in what can be considered congregate care setting. Also, the delta variant is causing more severe illness in unvaccinated individuals.
  • When we made the decision not to require the COVID-19 vaccination, we did so because the vaccine had been approved under an Emergency Use Authorization. Accordingly, we decided to implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement once the vaccine received full FDA approval.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection against the spread of COVID-19.
  • We hope the COVID-19 vaccination requirement will help us reach 85% to 90% vaccination status on campus, which will allow us to begin a return to normal operations.
  • Hennepin, Olmsted, and Winona counties are all counties of substantial COVID-19 transmission per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Over 600 colleges and universities across the country currently have COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
  • The majority of the Minnesota Private College Council schools have COVID-19 vaccine requirements in place currently (Augsburg University, Carleton College, College of Saint Benedict, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Saint John's University, St. Catherine University, Saint Olaf College, and University of St. Thomas).
  • While we have an obligation to protect our students, we also have an obligation to protect our employees, many of whom have children under the age of 12 who are at risk for COVID-19.

If I come to Saint Marys, will I be forced to withdraw if I choose to not be vaccinated?
You will not be forced to withdraw. You will be required to file a medical or non-medical exemption. See above.

Will you be doing regular COVID-19 testing?
The Wellness Center will be conducting surveillance testing of random sample of 10% of our unvaccinated student body, beginning the second week of school. Staff will be conducting this testing. More information will be forthcoming.

Are classes on the Twin Cities and Rochester campuses going to be in person or online?
A hybrid approach will be offered, allowing some in-person and some online instruction. Students can check the course schedule in the student portal or check with their program director if they have any questions about academic delivery for a particular course.

What will change in terms of events?
We are monitoring the situation daily and will make determinations weekly related to in-person event gatherings. Appropriate announcements about events will be made each week, and all fall COVID-19 protocols will be implemented for events. We ask our community to be in full compliance.

What should I do if I or someone close to me (e.g., roommate, family member, close contact) tests positive for COVID-19?
Students should report a positive COVID-19 test to Health Services at 507-457-1492. Health Services will arrange isolation housing. Students are not permitted to leave their isolation housing for 10 days. Students who are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should also notify Health Services. Health Services will arrange quarantine housing. Students are not permitted to leave their quarantine housing for 14 days. See quarantine guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health.

What resources are available to assist with mental health?
Students at the College in Winona have access to counselors in the Jay Johnson Wellness Center. Learn more.

Do I need to wear a mask while in my office?
Masks are encouraged, but not required, when employees are working in their office alone.

Will we be going to remote work again?
We will not be returning to remote work at this time. Until and unless we receive additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health, our current work arrangements remain in place.

I have children at home and am not comfortable working in the office. What can I do?
Our current protocols are meant to mitigate risk. That said, if you require a special accommodation, please contact Human Resources to discuss the process of requesting an accommodation.

What should I do if I or a family member/close contact tests positive for COVID-19?
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 should notify Human Resources. They are required to stay home for 10 days. Employees who are a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should also notify Human Resources. They are required to stay home for 14 days. See quarantine guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Is COVID-19 testing available to faculty and staff?
Visit the Minnesota Department of Health to find a COVID-19 testing location in Minnesota. COVID-19 testing is not available to faculty and staff through Health Services. We have limited health staff there whose efforts need to be focused on students.

Does Blue Cross Blue Shield require a COVID-19 test be ordered by a doctor in order for it to be covered by insurance?
No. However, the test does need to be administered by a healthcare professional (Dr., PA, RN) for it to be covered by insurance.

What protocol should be used to enforce mask use in classrooms and hallways — specifically, if students refuse to leave when asked?
The faculty member should speak with the student about the requirement to wear masks in class and give the student the opportunity to comply. If a student refuses to comply and will not depart from the classroom, the faculty member should call Campus Safety at 507-457-1703 or hit the Campus Safety button on the classroom phone to remove the student from class.

Upon arrival to the classroom, Campus Safety will speak to the faculty member to find out which student(s) are refusing to wear masks. Faculty members should understand that by calling Campus Safety, the student will likely be removed from class.

Campus Safety staff will then approach the student(s), if safe to do so, and explain that the student(s) must leave the classroom and building. Campus Safety staff will explain that the student’s failure to mask is a violation of university policy. Only students with masks may participate in in-person classes. If the student resides on campus, the Campus Safety officer will direct the student to return to his or her residence hall room. If the student resides off-campus, the Campus Safety officer will direct the students to leave campus. The student will be advised that they may not return to classes until such time as the student is wearing a mask.

The Office of Student Affairs will meet with the student. The Student Success Center will also be contacted as the student’s absence from class will be considered an unexcused absence.

In the event the situation escalates and requires law enforcement or emergency personnel, the administrator-on-call will be contacted.

What is the protocol for a student, faculty, or staff testing positive? Who will be required to quarantine and or isolate?
These protocols are on the Human Resources section of Inside Pages. Any employees or student who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or has had a positive COVID-19 test must isolate until the following occur:

  • At least 24 hours have passed with no fever without fever-reducing medications; AND
  • At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared; AND
  • The student or the employee feels better meaning, any cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms are better.

Any employee or student who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days.

All employees are required to report COVID-19 symptoms or positive COVID-19 tests to Human Resources. All students are required to report COVID-19 symptoms or positive COVID-19 tests to the Wellness Center. If the employee is asymptomatic, the employee may work from home.

What is the procedure if a family member is required to get tested or quarantine?
If a family member is required to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine, the employee should follow any guidance from contact tracers. In all likelihood, the employee would be a close contact of the family member and would be required to quarantine. The employee should contact Human Resources at hr@smumn.edu or 507-457-1508.

What resources are available to assist with mental health?
The Cigna Life Assistance & Work/Life Support Program is available 24/7 at cignalap.com or 1-800-538-3543. Three face-to-face sessions with a behavioral counselor for you and your household members are available to employees.

If a faculty member is extremely fearful of teaching face to face but has no underlying conditions, what resources or recourse is available to them?
They should contact Human Resources for information. The university will grant reasonable accommodations to employees who qualify for such accommodations under the Amercians with Disabilities Act.

Will instructors have their own discretion to change their class format to online even after the semester starts/in the middle of the semester?
The goal (for the College) is to have face-to-face sessions as space and social distancing allows. In situations where this is not possible, then leveraging a CardinalFlex model or fully online model is the desired approach. Faculty must consult with their dean and obtain their dean’s approval before moving any course fully online. Occasional synchronous sessions are fine, but faculty need to let students know that as far in advance as possible and should consider recording and posting those sessions for students who cannot attend.

If a full-time faculty member contracts the virus and is unable to teach for six weeks, will they still receive their salary and benefits? How will their classes be covered for that length of time? Will the substitute professor be compensated for their additional workload? What about an adjunct faculty who becomes ill or is needed to substitute?
A full-time faculty member would be entitled to paid sick leave for any period of time they are not working due to COVID-19. Any substitute professors would be compensated for any additional workload. We will determine class coverage on a case-by-case basis.

An adjunct faculty member would not have sick leave afforded to them, so they would not be paid if they cannot teach. The substitute would be paid instead.

Can faculty take their class on field trips this semester?
Yes, but masking would be required of all students during the field trip unless it is outdoors. In addition, masking would be required in any university vehicle. Occupancy limits in vehicles are reduced so faculty should plan accordingly.

Are off-campus service projects permitted this semester?
Yes, but masking would be required of all students during the service project unless it is outdoors. In addition, masking would be required in any university vehicle. Occupancy limits in vehicles are reduced so faculty or staff should plan accordingly.