MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities will be welcoming back tens of thousands of students to its campus in the coming days, and with the new semester comes new changes to how the campus is trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The changes come amid rising hospitalizations associated with the fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID-19.
For one, the U of M announced new quarantine and isolation guidance for students, faculty and staff.
The new guidance falls more in line with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended in December 2021, that allows some individuals to leave their home after five days if they test positive for COVID.
If you are a community member of the U and test positive for the virus, regardless of symptoms, you are asked to isolate for five days. If you have symptoms you are asked to continue isolating until symptoms are gone, and you can can wear a mask around others for an additional five days.
If there are no symptoms five days after testing positive, you may leave your house and wear a mask around others for an additional five days.
If you have been exposed to COVID, the university said you should wear a mask around others and test on the fifth day if you are fully vaccinated with boosters. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are asked to stay home for five days followed by 10 days of masking around others.
The U of M’s approach is unique. With many universities opting to go online for the first few weeks of the upcoming term, students told KARE 11 it’s a complex problem with balancing student’s needs and their safety.
Alexis Wagenfeld, a junior at the U of M, said the university is not doing enough to accommodate for immunocompromised students.
“Online classes are really great for accessibility purposes,” Wagenfeld said. “There are no additional actions taken by the U to make the campus community safer when it’s very clear that the risk associated with COVID is only increasing.”
The university is not going online this semester, but is allowing some employees to work remotely if they get approved by management.
Since guidance supporting high-quality masks was noted as a way to mitigate the spread of omicron, the U of M is also offering free KN95 to its student population starting Jan. 18.
If you are a U of M student and want to access free KN95’s, you can check with the Coffman Student Union first floor on the west end, the Recreation and Wellness Center, the West Bank Skyway, St. Paul Student Center and the St. Paul Gym.
In addition, the university is anticipating a possible booster requirement for its campus community. Currently it's only a recommendation, but the university said boosters will help with immunity throughout campus.
Students and faculty who wish to get boosted on campus, click the link here to find an appointment.
The U of M is starting off the semester with a high case count among students and staff.
From Dec. 23 to the 29, U of M reported 60 cases of coronavirus. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 5, the university reported 145 cases of the virus. These numbers include all members of the U of M community who were tested at on-campus Boynton Health locations.
Out of the 145 cases from last week, 124 were reportedly students.
The true number of positive tests coming from U of M students and staff is most likely undercounted on the dashboard, since it only displays positive tests from Boynton Health.
Tallen Johnson, a sophomore at the U of M, said he’s happy school is starting in-person.
“I believe there is basically no circumstance, unless omicron infects a large number of faculty and students at one time, I don’t see a future in which the university were to close.”
He added that online course accommodations can help those who are at high risk for COVID, and thinks an individual approach would best fit the university.
“I think they are headed in the right direction as long as the university provides faculty and students with the resources they need to attend class safely."
Classes for U of M Twin Cities start Jan. 18.
The U said it also expects to issue new guidance pertaining to the Twin Cities vaccine and testing mandates on Friday, Jan. 14.
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