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UMN spring semester updates on quarantining and COVID-19 safety measures

Are you confused about the COVID-19 policy changes this semester to keep students safe? Here’s a breakdown of the recent updates so far.
Image by Hailee Schievelbein

President Joan Gabel kicked off the spring semester with an update on COVID-19 safety protocols in her email to the University of Minnesota community on Jan.5.

Since then, University administration sent follow-up emails detailing changes that can be expected this semester for students. These changes include updated quarantine timelines, proof of vaccination and increasing access to N-95 and KN-95 masks.

“Students should expect a spring semester that looks similar to the fall in many ways, including mandatory mask usage in all indoor spaces,” Andria Waclawski, University assistant director of public relations, wrote in an emailed statement to the Minnesota Daily.

Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, the University updated its quarantine and isolation protocol to require students who test positive for COVID-19 to isolate for five days or until symptoms and fever subside. After the five-day period, students can return to in-person classes while still wearing a mask, according to Gabel’s email sent on Jan. 12.

Vaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 should wear a mask around others for ten days and take a COVID-19 test on day five.

However, students who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask around others for ten days, stay home for five days and get tested on day five.

The University is encouraging students and staff to receive a booster shot along with the original vaccine mandate, according to Waclawski. In addition, Waclawski’s email stated “we continue to closely collaborate with instructors and other University support resources to provide any needed flexibility or other accommodations.”

Third-year student Josephine Meloy said the frequency of the University’s COVID-19 protocol updates emails so far are helpful, but could use more clarity.

“I do wish that those weekly email blasts had information that was actually answering the [students’] questions or maybe a place to submit questions,” Meloy said.

On the other hand, some students said they want stronger safety protocols.

Amethyst O’Connell, a seventh-year electrical engineering student, said they are strongly dissatisfied with the University’s COVID-19 measures and want to see more online options.

“I actually spent the winter semester trying to transfer to the University of North Dakota because they have an online program and we don’t,” O’Connell said.

To provide more flexibility to professors, the University decided to allow professors to change their course delivery without seeking additional approval, stated in University Provost Rachel Croson’s Jan. 6 letter.

Now, professors who are unable to lead a class for COVID-19 related reasons for a time period of up to five weekdays are able to alter their course delivery without seeking additional approval. If professors need to modify their course delivery for more than a five-day period, they need to reach out to a program head or chair first.

According to Waclawski, new information regarding COVID-19 safety protocols will be posted to Safe Campus and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost’s website, while any large-scale changes will be communicated directly to students, faculty and staff.

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