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Univ. acknowledges Omicron variant of COVID-19

The university released a statement regarding the latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron, according to an email sent by Carol A. Fierke, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Stew Uretsky, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration and Raymond Lu-Ming Ou, Vice President of Student Affairs. The university will continue to enforce its COVID-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the virus or any of its variants. 

“We know that the identification and naming of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 last week has caused new concern about the direction of the pandemic. At this time of heightened awareness, we think it’s important to remember all that we are doing, and will continue to do, to limit the spread of any version of COVID on campus,” read the email. 

According to the email, nearly everyone on campus is vaccinated and the high vaccination rate on campus could be beneficial to mitigate the spread of the variant. The university will be sponsoring a booster clinic the week of Dec. 6 for community members 18 years of age and older to help keep the community vaccinated. The email also suggests getting vaccinated at local pharmacies or clinics if they are older than the age of 18.  

The university has maintained COVID-19 policies on campus, including face coverings, which have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus, according to the email, and these have been beneficial as the community has tackled the Delta variant. 

While much is still unknown about the Omicron variant, we do know that as a coronavirus, the primary form of transmission is through the air, so continuing to wear face coverings is of paramount importance. All of our existing policies remain in effect,” reads the email. 

Testing will remain in effect for community members with individual PCR tests for everyone. Following the Thanksgiving break, the university expects that everyone gets tested at the first opportunity upon return to campus. According to the email, if community members have traveled or celebrated with a large group they should make sure they get tested. The university expects an uptick in the number of positive cases on campus. 

“We have every reason to believe that with everyone’s continued cooperation and solidarity in adhering to our COVID guidelines, we can continue to manage the risk of this new COVID concern to bring our semester successfully to a close,” said the email. 

The university is confident that with their “intensive” contact tracing program they will be able to quickly contact and isolate the community members who test positive in the coming week. By identifying close contacts they will be able to help limit the spread of the virus on campus, according to the email. 

“It remains imperative that we all embrace and follow our protocols and think about what we can do on and off campus as the semester draws to a close: please continue testing, masking, and consider limiting those with whom you have close contact without a mask on,” read the email.

The university will continue to watch its case numbers with its data analysis software through the Broad Institute. Positive case numbers will be monitored on campus as well as in the surrounding communities, according to the email; adjustments to COVID-19 policies on campus will be made if necessary. According to the email, the Broad Institute also provides information on variants identified in the Boston area.

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