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Reverse the COVID-19 trend, make smart choices

August 27, 2020

News Undergrad Student Information

Dear Students,

Minnesota’s COVID-19 case counts have been climbing since June, especially in the 18- to 24-year-old age group. Around 1,000 cases a week have been reported in this age group. These COVID-19 cases have occurred as a result of people gathering without social distancing at bars, restaurants, and house parties.

Today, the New York Times reports more than 6,600 COVID-19 cases have been linked to U.S. colleges and universities. We have also seen reports in the news media about several colleges and universities that have re-opened and experienced significant numbers of COVID-19 cases. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill closed its campus one week after it had reopened. The University of Notre Dame has moved to online instruction for two weeks due to cases moving from 33 at the start of the school year to 471 cases as of Aug. 24. The number of positive cases at Auburn University multiplied by more than five times in one week, moving from 41 to 208 cases. These schools have attributed the spread of COVID-19 to large off-campus parties and students at bars.

We understand the temptation you may be feeling, particularly because you haven’t seen one another for a long period of time. But, if we are to keep Saint Mary’s learning on ground — and keep everyone safe — our expectation is that students, staff, and faculty will not put themselves in situations where social distancing and mask wearing are not being observed.

It is everyone’s responsibility to help reverse the trend. If case counts continue to increase, you are jeopardizing our ability to offer fall academic courses in-person. So, we ask you to adhere to the following:

  • When getting together in a social setting, whether indoor or outdoor:
    • Keep group sizes small (10 or fewer people) – the smaller the better!
    • Ensure at least 6 feet of social distancing between you and your friends.
    • Meet outside whenever possible.
  • Limit the number of people in small or common spaces.
  • Avoid crowded bars, restaurants, or other gathering spots.
  • If you do go to a bar or restaurant:
    • Don’t stay if tables aren’t spread out. COVID-19 spreads quickly when there is crowding and clustering.
    • Sit outside. We see less transmission of COVID-19 when people are outside.
    • Instead of standing at a bar, sit at a table with space between you and others. It is too easy to get close to each other when you are standing.
    • When sitting with your friends, try to give yourself as much space as possible.
    • Wear a face covering when you are not eating or drinking. In Minnesota, masks are mandatory inside buildings with the exception of when you are eating or drinking.

Saint Mary’s has partnered with you to support in-person learning this fall. It is now your responsibility to ensure that we are able to move forward with these plans. The longer people follow these guidelines, the longer we will be able to keep classes on campus. We want you to be on campus through Nov. 24. Help us achieve that goal. Do the right thing by wearing a mask, spreading out, and avoiding places where this isn’t possible.

Ann Merchlewitz, J.D.
Chair, Pandemic Assessment and Coordinating Team