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Students drove hours for vaccines; those fully vaccinated now exempt from certain protocols

On Wednesday, April 28, President Steven Poskanzer announced that Carleton will require the COVID-19 vaccination next fall, joining nearby Macalester College and a number of other colleges nationwide. 

“In light of our congregate living environment and educational mission, there is a strong ethical rationale for and public health benefit in requiring such vaccination,” Poskanzer wrote in his message to students and faculty. He also noted that flu vaccines are already required on campus—a policy implemented during the pandemic—and that the college is willing to consider requests for exemption.      

Poskanzer presented the fall as a return to normalcy—with courses primarily taught in person, buildings returning to pre-pandemic occupancy levels, employees transitioning back to campus over the summer, visitors allowed on campus and no mask requirement “unless state or federal regulations dictate otherwise.” 

He noted that the college will continue to implement a COVID-19 testing regime and reserve some quarantine and isolation spaces in the fall. They will also reevaluate the need for a behavioral “covenant” on campus, revised to “align with broader public health protocols.”    

Later in the day, Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston gave the weekly “Pandemic Update,” reporting that “following the successful completion of two more on-campus vaccination clinics last week, 74% of Carleton students, faculty and staff have now reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID–19 vaccine.”

With this number rising, Livingston announced two important changes to campus expectations for fully-vaccinated individuals: beginning next week, vaccinated students and staff will no longer be included in the pool for weekly surveillance testing, and they will not need to “lie low” after domestic travel. Masks will continue to be required indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.

On March 30, when Minnesota vaccine eligibility opened to everyone aged 16 years and older, some students quickly went online to schedule their vaccination using scraping tools like Vaccine Spotter and Minnesota Vaccine Alerts. They then drove anywhere from a few minutes to four hours away to make it to out-of-county appointments.

To address the need for drivers, Rebecca Margolis ’21 created a spreadsheet to pair those requiring transportation with student volunteers. Drivers could express a limit on distance and could indicate whether they were willing to loan out their car. Margolis reflected that “having a car on campus has been an immense privilege, and so it’s really nice to put it to good use.” 

Elijah Goldberg ’22, who drove close to a dozen people to their vaccine appointments, said that a challenge was that even though a trip should have only taken an hour, sometimes it took two or three hours due to appointment wait times.  

Students like Pierce McDonnell ’21 and Lucy Johnson ’24, with appointments very close by—either in Northfield or neighboring communities like Faribault— were able to make use of the Hiawathaland Transit Dial-a-Ride bus service to get to their appointment. 

The Carletonian distributed a survey on Wednesday, April 29, asking on-campus students who got vaccinated off-campus to share where they got the shot. The most common locations among the 162 respondents who got vaccinated in Minnesota were Winona, Faribault and Northfield. Almost 28% of respondents went to Winona—with many participating in a large clinic at the East End Recreation Center.  

While the majority of appointment locations were in southern Minnesota, two students drove as far north as Chisholm and Moorhead, both nearly a four-hour drive from Carleton. View the full interactive map here.  

Now that there have been multiple on-campus vaccination clinics, students are no longer finding the need to drive out of Rice County. Goldberg said, “People have not been contacting me almost at all since that Thrifty White [on-campus vaccination] event. So, it seems like, at this point, almost everyone who’s wanted one has gotten one.” 

“It’s funny how things change,” McDonnell said, “because I remember, in the beginning, people were so excited that they could get a vaccine appointment like half an hour away. And now those people are like, darn I have to go all the way out there to get my second shot? I could have just done it on campus.”

Rachel Morrison, Clinical Case Manager with Student Health and Counseling, said that students can still look for vaccinations elsewhere, and that they should fill out the Assistance Form if they need help finding first or second doses. According to Morrison, a vaccination clinic also took place Thursday evening at the Northfield Community Education Center.

She added, “We are now encouraging everyone to get their second shot wherever they are able.  It was imperative at the beginning for people to return to the original location due to the high volume of people traveling to smaller communities to obtain a shot. Now that is not the case.”   

Morrison also emphasized the importance of reporting vaccination completion to the college. She said, “This will help us sort out how many people still need vaccinations and direct our manner of assisting the community. The sooner we can gather all the information of those fully vaccinated, the better.”   

Students, faculty, and staff should report their vaccination to Carleton using the Vaccine Documentation Form and will need to submit verification by uploading a photo of their COVID-19 vaccination card to the mySHAC patient portal. 

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