WINONA, Minn. — Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is moving to fully online instruction for the next two weeks right up to the Thanksgiving break on its Winona Campus due to the significant increase in COVID-19 cases on campus, similar to what is happening in the state. In addition, the university has closed the Winona Campus facilities to outside visitors, asked students to remain in their rooms whenever possible, and is instituting a 9 p.m. curfew. All of this will begin tomorrow.
Several factors led to the decision, including the state of local healthcare capacity, the university’s Wellness Center capacity, and the ability of the university to provide adequate quarantine and isolation facilities if required. Additionally, on Nov. 9, the Minnesota Department of Health recommended that all colleges and universities in the State of Minnesota move to an orange level and implement the mitigation strategies associated with that level, which include campus closures and online instruction. As of Nov. 9, Saint Mary’s had reported only 53 positive cases on its Winona Campus since the start of the semester, due in large part to student compliance with social distancing protocols. But 14 new cases have been recorded so far for the week of Nov. 9. Students are expected to stay on campus and not return home earlier than the regularly scheduled break.
“Our primary concern is not only to keep our students safe,” said Tim Gossen, vice president of Student Affairs, “but also to ensure they are healthy as they return home to their families. The best way to control the spread of COVID-19 is to limit contact as cases across the state continue to rise. We continue to remain proud of all the efforts our students and broader community have shown to keep learning in-person, and keep each other safe.”
In June, Saint Mary’s made the decision to end in-person classes for the fall semester at Thanksgiving break, allowing students to complete their courses online from home. This previous decision was made to limit exposure from students returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday and mitigate an outbreak during finals, which coincides with the traditional start of the flu season.