Please read this entire email, as it contains important updates regarding Governor Tim Walz’s latest executive order and its impact on St. Thomas. Yesterday’s order included specific direction for institutions of higher education.

To be clear: Campus remains open, residence halls remain open and we will continue to have courses that include in-person instruction, including after the Thanksgiving break. Our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in our classrooms, labs and other campus areas have been effective, and we feel confident additional measures can help ensure that St. Thomas remains a good environment in which to learn and study before finals.

There are several steps, however, that we must take to comply with the governor’s order and protect the health of our community as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in Minnesota.

Social Gathering Restrictions

The order prohibits any social gatherings outside of immediate households. While we have been effective in preventing virus transmission in our classrooms and labs, the same cannot be said for social gatherings.

  • A separate email to resident students will be coming soon with more details about how this impacts those living in residence halls.
  • Off-campus students – you are likewise expected to follow the governor’s order. That means no social gatherings with people you do not live with and especially no house parties.

Working Remotely

As part of the plan to dial back, the executive order states employees “must telework if you can.”

  • Campus remains open, which means certain departments and offices must be staffed to meet business needs. However, any employees who can work from home should do so. Please discuss your individual situations with your managers to ensure we have adequate staffing on campus to maintain our necessary operations.
  • As communicated previously, faculty have flexibility to transition in-person courses to online formats if they so desire.

Thanksgiving

While this will be a hard sacrifice, everyone is strongly urged to obey the executive order and avoid gathering for Thanksgiving with anyone outside their immediate households. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Health has issued the following guidance for students regarding Thanksgiving break:

  • Students who go home for Thanksgiving should consider staying home for remote instruction for the rest of the semester. Please communicate with your professors if you do this.
  • Students who wish to remain on campus through December should consider staying on campus through the Thanksgiving break.
  • Students who feel they can safely travel for Thanksgiving and return to campus for the rest of the semester should self-quarantine upon their return and plan to be tested within 5-7 days. We plan to hold another mass testing event for the community after the Thanksgiving break and encourage students to take advantage.

We realize these are difficult choices; ultimately, every family must decide what is best for their unique situations.

Building Closures

The order directs gyms and fitness centers to close for at least the next four weeks. Starting Saturday, we will close the weight room, cardio room and pools at the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex (AARC), as well as the McCarthy Gym. Classroom and office space at the AARC will remain open.

We are facing a very challenging situation right now. COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across the nation with no signs of slowing down. Hospitals in Minnesota are reaching a crisis point due to staffing shortages. We grieve and pray for those who have lost their lives and their families, as well as for recovery of those who have fallen ill. While none of these new restrictions are ideal, we must all remember our mission to serve the common good – maintaining our culture of care is more important than ever. Please protect yourselves, your families and neighbors by abiding by the governor’s executive order in your private lives, in addition to your lives on campus.

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