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Coronavirus Response Team

When the coronavirus began to spread to the U.S. — first in Washington state and then in other locations around the nation — President David Anderson ’74 formed a Coronavirus Response Team to coordinate the College’s response to the virus and to keep the campus informed.

Founded in late February, the Team is composed of faculty from different administrative sectors across campus, including environmental health and safety, health services and media relations.

One of the first actions the Team took was to develop a dedicated COVID-19 web page on the St. Olaf website, while continuously working to field questions raised by students and parents.

Due to the high volume of questions received from various sources, the Team has, at times, been slow to respond to concerns. To lessen the volume of questions, the Team created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section within the COVID-19 web page, which they have consistently updated.

The primary function of the Team has involved keeping the campus up to date with the latest decisions. The Team communicated information regarding the extension of spring break on March 11 and regarding changes to dining services and the cancellation of College-sponsored events on March 13. Many of these updates have included information about social distancing and mitigation strategies. 

Part of the Team’s job has also involved dispelling a number of rumors that have cropped up across campus. One such rumor involved the possibility of a St. Olaf student being quarantined following contact with COVID-19 during a nursing clinical program. The Team denied this rumor on March 14 and clarified that nursing students had not worked in areas exposed to the coronavirus.

Another rumor involved possible contact with the coronavirus by a group of skiers who traveled to New York state. This rumor was also quickly dispelled on March 15.

Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Pamela McDowell, a member of the Response Team, has communicated updates regarding student housing and dining services to the campus, often alongside updates posted by the Response Team. Several forms were created to gather information on students travelling off campus or leaving campus prior to Wednesday, March 18.