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Saint Mary’s continues diligent COVID-19 protocols and contact tracing

October 28, 2020

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We understand that anxiety about COVID-19 transmission may increase due to the surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, the significant transmission of COVID-19 in Wisconsin, and colder weather that precipitates moving indoors. The university continues to ask the campus community to observe all COVID-19 protocols as they are designed to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19. We are blessed to have multiple people at the university trained to do contact tracing. The university works closely and cooperatively with Winona County Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Health on all contract tracing.

When the university receives notice of a positive COVID-19 test involving a student, Christina Uribe Nitti, DNP, interim director of the Wellness Center, begins the contact tracing process, which has been in place since before the start of the fall semester. The individual designated to complete the contact tracing process reaches out to the student to identify all close contacts. A close contact is defined as someone who has been closer than six feet for more than fifteen minutes during the two days before the positive individual was tested or started feeling ill. Close contacts are notified by the Wellness Center and placed in quarantine. Student Success is also notified as each close contact is identified, so that notices can be sent to the faculty members of the students who are placed in quarantine. The university does not plan or stage notifications to the faculty or to students in any way.

We are generally able to complete this process within 24 hours of notification of a positive test result. Our ability to identify close contacts and place them in quarantine in an expeditious manner helps decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the university community.

Please note the number of positive COVID-19 cases may not appear to correlate with the number of students in quarantine or isolation. If one student tests positive and that student is an athlete, the entire athletic team with which the student is associated might be quarantined, as they could all be close contacts of that student. If another student tests positive but has had close contact with 10 students, all of those students would be quarantined. Accordingly, the university can have a low number of positive COVID-19 cases but a large number of students in quarantine or isolation. Our ability to rapidly conduct contact tracing and place students in quarantine or isolation helps limit the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses.

The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 remains the same: Wash your hands frequently. Wear a mask. Social distance. Appropriate social distancing means that, in all likelihood, you will not be a close contact of a person with COVID-19 and therefore will not be required to quarantine.