According to DSU, the cabinet met and voted that the university could return to “Yellow Status: Moderate Community Spread” as decreases in the number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Dakota have provided an opportunity for the in-person plan.

Employees will return to campus, with the exception of those who are at a higher risk and/or those positions which can be satisfactorily performed from a remote location such as their homes.

“There was that period when Stark County had some of the worst rates of positive cases in the state, but now that has changed and that allows us to go back to our desire for face-to-face classes,” Stephen Easton, DSU president, said. “It is a combination of factors we looked at before making our decision. We of course want to be face-to-face, but the big thing that has changed after Thanksgiving is that the area’s [COVID-19] case numbers are significantly down and the pressure of the healthcare system is not as severe as they were when we previously made the decision to forgo most face-to-face classes.”

The university operates on a three tier system based on the potential for community spread. This community spread risk level system is part of the DSU Adaptive COVID Strategies. The three tiers are Green, Yellow and Red. Green is the lowest tier and signals a return to normalcy while Red is the highest and encompases lockdown measures and remote education only. These risk levels outline strategies for the University’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in a constant process of monitoring things like pressure on the healthcare system and what the testing numbers look like,” Easton said. “We want face-to-face classes just as long as we can do it responsibility for the community and not to unnecessarily hasten the spread of the virus.”

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The University’s adaptive strategies and responses under a “Yellow Status: Moderate Community Spread” includes such things as water bottle fillers being operational but fountains remaining unavailable. Among the most noticeable changes is that The Perch Dining hall will adjust and monitor seating arrangements to encourage social distancing and face-to-face classes will still give students an option to attend remotely, through a hybrid model.

“We will continue with mask use, there is no change there and as much social distancing we are able to accomplish while still having face-to-face classes,” Easton said.

In conjunction with the latest updates, DSU’s Student Health Services Center will offer free rapid COVID-19 tests to all DSU students, faculty and staff. Testing will be made available between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m weekdays and by appointment. Appointments can be made by calling 701-483-2304, and test results will be received usually within 24 hours.

“We are very hopeful with the vaccines coming and other developments. We are hoping that we will be face-to-face all spring,” Easton said. “We try to make decisions in a very timely fashion, and last spring we were the first campus in the state to announce we would be back face-to-face ...We are constantly monitoring the risk levels and it is possible for things to change, but we hope to sprint through the finish line tape at the end of the semester.”

For more information about DSU’s course delivery methods, visit www.dickinsonstate.edu