Message from President Downs: Campus COVID-19 Update

Image of NSU logo and COVID-19 information

Faculty, staff and students:

As we near the end of summer, I know many of you are approaching fall excited to return to in-person learning – but also curious to learn what changes await on campus for the coming semester. Though things remain fluid as they have throughout the pandemic, I am able to share some certainties with you today.

Yesterday, the South Dakota Board of Regents announced a Face Covering Protocol, which guides Northern and other BOR universities on specific areas of campus and/or circumstances when masks may be required. In accordance with this policy – which applies to all students, staff, faculty and campus visitors – we will start the semester at a Level 3 protocol, meaning face covers will be required in all public indoor spaces on campus. I know many of you, myself included, were looking for guidance on masks on campus, and I’m pleased the BOR has provided a protocol for us to follow.

I’m also pleased to announce that on-campus COVID-19 testing will be available this fall via Abbott ID-Now machines, thanks to the South Dakota Department of Health. Tests are available, at no cost to students, through Student Health Services (Student Center 240) in partnership with Avera Health. It’s still vital to take all precautionary measures, but having access to testing on an as-needed basis, as well as having the BOR mask guidelines, will give us additional tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

We also plan to have hand sanitizer dispensers at every building entrance, sanitizing wipes in every classroom, and masks available for those who do not have their own. Due to supply chain backup, some of these supplies may be delayed; we are preparing backup options in case. To request COVID-19 supplies from NSU Facilities (such as cloth face masks and hand sanitizer), please work with your supervisor to determine the proposed needs for your entire department. Assuming the recommended expenditure has been approved, your department is encouraged to submit its order using this online form.

Also, we have updated northern.edu/coronavirus, so please be sure to take a look and familiarize yourself with protocols and procedures. The webpage now includes various FAQs for students, faculty and staff, as well as policies created by our Return-to-Campus Taskforce: a Self-Monitoring and Notification Policy; Cleaning Policy; Common Spaces Policy; and Student Worker Policy.

We have appointed a COVID-19 coordinator: Vice President of Enrollment, Communications and Marketing Justin Fraase, who has worked with Brown County Emergency Management on its COVID-19 response since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Erin Fouberg will serve as assistant COVID-19 coordinator. Having these individuals as points of contact will allow for consistency in messaging and procedures as we move through the semester, and I appreciate their willingness to take on these roles.

As a reminder, fall classes will start a few days early, on Aug. 19, and we’re eliminating three-day weekends this fall in the hopes of reducing travel to and from campus during the semester. This means we will hold classes and offices will be open on Labor Day, Native American Day and Veterans Day. Then, on-campus instruction will end at Thanksgiving break, with finals taking place online. Employees, please note that those three holidays are now shifting to Dec. 28-30. If you have any questions, please talk to your supervisor.

I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in preparing for a return to campus this fall, and I’m confident that we can work together to keep our entire campus community safe and healthy. I ask again that everyone be vigilant in continuing to follow CDC guidelines when it comes to preventative measures, and remain alert to campus messaging regarding policies and procedures as we get closer to fall.

For now, please enjoy the rest of your summer and stay well. As always: Go Wolves!

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