As fall semester is wrapping up at Minnesota State College Southeast (MSC Southeast), confirmed cases of COVID-19 remain relatively low. Weekly case reports are updated every Wednesday on the college’s website at www.southeastmn.edu/covid19.
“Fortunately, the college community has had a low incidence of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date. The on-campus safety protocols that include social distancing, masks, daily online self-assessment, hand hygiene, and sanitation have been working,” said interim president Larry Lundblad.
MSC Southeast has the advantage of being a small, commuter college. Even before the pandemic, about 40 percent of instruction was online. This has helped keep the number of people on campus low, reducing the risk of transmission. In addition, MSC Southeast doesn’t have the complexities of students living in campus housing or sharing all of their meals together in dining halls.
MSC Southeast Vice President of Student Affairs Josiah Litant said open communications have been helpful. “People have been really good about communicating with college administration about transmission concerns, exposure, or COVID-19 symptoms, so we’ve been able to mitigate transmission to a large extent across both of our campuses.”
On November 17, the college announced additional strategies to help prevent spread of COVID-19. On a program-by-program basis, instructors are determining if they can shift some projects off campus and/or move in-person classes online after Thanksgiving break. “Students who are studying online will continue to do so. We aim for on-campus students to be able to complete their hands-on courses in the safest way possible that still ensures that they are able to learn the material effectively,” Josiah Litant said.
Managers have been encouraged to further stagger employee schedules to increase the number of people working remotely. These staff members are still available by phone, email, and Zoom. The number of tables in common areas is being reduced and chairs are limited to one per table. “Since we can’t wear masks while eating and drinking, we are urging everyone to eat alone, then enjoy social time wearing masks and keeping distanced,” Josiah explained.
The college has adopted the “Count on Me” campaign to “Mask Up, Back Up, Wash Up, Check Up, and Check In” — originally created by Winona State University and now being shared across southeast Minnesota.
Above all, MSC Southeast remains committed to helping students completing the semester successfully. “While we will continue to monitor our numbers, and we’re aware that health department guidelines may change, we feel fairly confident that the strategies we have put in place will allow us to operate safely in the current environment,” Josiah Litant said. “It’s important to keep our doors open, not only for on-campus instruction, but for student access to services like the food pantries, computers, and printing.