University of Minnesota campuses around the state have transitioned to the second step of its fall COVID-19 safety plan.
Step two loosens restrictions that were in place for the first week and change of the academic year, which means students in university housing now have access to more facilities, including all on-campus locations and the surrounding community. But students still must return to their residence hall by 9 p.m.
The "Maroon and Gold Sunrise" plan, announced by President Joan Gable earlier this month, began by limiting student access to on-campus activities, demanding that students living in campus housing "almost exclusively" remain at their residence halls with the exception of attending in-person classes or using dining and health facilities.
Step two of the Sunrise plan is expected to last two weeks, at which point Step three may be implemented. Step three is the same as Step two, but the curfew will be pushed back to midnight.
Step four features the same rules as steps two and three but has no curfew.
"Students, I know this is a lot to ask, especially of the many of you who will be experiencing campus life for the first time," Gabel said in her initial release. "It will be a challenge, but it is worth it. We have such confidence in each of you. Your choices and judgment at each step will play a critical role in allowing us to progress to the final phase, and your work to keep yourself and others safe and healthy will pay off in the opportunity for all students to remain on campus, rather than reverting to distance learning as we did in the spring."
The Sunrise plan is in effect for U of M campuses in the Twin Cities, Rochester and Duluth. The Crookston and Morris campuses are following similar rules.
Colleges around the country, including in Minnesota neighboring states, have seen outbreaks of COVID-19 among student populations. The Sunrise plan was implemented at the U of M to help cut down on any potential initial outbreak.
Even though students living in campus housing were asked to stay at their residence halls for 10 days before the 9 p.m. curfew of step two was enacted, there have still been sights of college-aged people gathering in large crowds while not wearing masks, nor social distancing.
Last week, a large crowd was spotted near freshmen dorms, raising concern about how seriously students are taking the pandemic.
"We are extremely concerned and this really is a time for all of us to work together and to recognize that we are all Minnesotans and that decisions that each of us make really does have impact on other people," said Minnesota State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield.