Newly evolved COVID-19 variant sparks safety concerns before winter break
December 6, 2021
With Thanksgiving break behind us and J-Term approaching, continuing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is crucial for a safe return. Since students will be spread across the Midwest and other states for around a month, there may not be access to easy rapid testing.
The testing center in Hagestad Hall will be open and available to students through Wednesday, December 22nd. Testing is an easy process, and should be utilized by all students who suspect they may be sick or exposed.
Effective starting the week after Thanksgiving break, all unvaccinated individuals who were required to test biweekly, including off-campus students and staff, will now need to be tested weekly. Unvaccinated students who reside on campus will continue to be tested weekly as well. This adjustment will be obligatory through December 13th.
On November 26th, a new COVID-19 variant was classified as the Omicron variant. The CDC is regularly monitoring these COVID variants, and it’s expected that the Omicron variant will be detected immediately if it appears in the US. The first case of Omicron can be traced back to November 24th in South Africa. As of November 28th, there have been two reported cases of Omicron in Ontario, Canada. This confirms that the variant has reached North America in 4 days.
When the Delta variant emerged in India in December of 2021, it made its way to the United States by March of 2021. It took about three months for a major surge in cases to begin. By July, the Delta Variant was so overwhelming that it made up over 83% of COVID cases. The World Health Organization stated the Omicron variant poses a ‘very high risk globally, as the Omicron variant has reached several continents within days of being classified. With a large number of mutations, it is also suspected that the Omicron variant may be more contagious than the Delta variant.
With the excitement of returning home for J-Term comes the excitement of seeing old friends and the joys of reconnecting with families for the holidays. An increase in COVID cases was to be expected through December and January. However, with the shadow of this new and contagious variant hanging over us during the holidays, it’s even more crucial to take precautions while celebrating.
Limiting the size of gatherings and limiting travel is effective in preventing the spread of COVID. Wearing masks indoors and around people who are more susceptible to carrying or spreading the virus is recommended by the CDC. Keeping your social circle somewhat small during J-Term can be an extremely helpful precaution as well.
The student vaccination rate on campus is currently over 70%. Maintaining immunity with booster shots when available is favorable to keep safe. Over J-Term, there will still be access throughout hometown pharmacies and offices to obtain vaccines. With our Hagestad testing site closed for break, your state government website provides a search engine for local COVID tests. With these searches, you will be able to find COVID tests available near you. There is also an option to pick what type of test you are seeking.
During our final weeks of the semester, keeping safe and healthy should be a top priority before final exams. Even off campus, we are Falcons. Working to stop the spread over J-Term and striving to stay healthy will achieve a safe return for the Spring Semester.