Campus COVID update: Omicron increasing on and off campus; new guidance for testing
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Dear students, staff and faculty,
We’re reaching out today with additional public health guidance in response to the latest COVID-19 data nationally, in the local community and on campus.
As Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) has reported, there are now nearly 150 confirmed cases of the omicron variant in Dane County. This includes samples collected on campus over the past week. This shows that the omicron variant is spreading very rapidly on and off campus, as in other parts of the country and globe. According to the CDC, omicron is already the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the U.S., comprising more than 73 percent of new cases. (Note that on 12/28/21, the CDC revised its estimate downward for the week ending 12/18, saying that nationwide prevalence was around 23 percent.)
This surge comes at a point when many people are traveling and spending time with extended family and friends and when many people have not yet gotten booster doses.
Actions you should take:
- If you plan to travel, it is now recommended by PHMDC that you test before travel, regardless of vaccination status. There is limited testing available on campus through Thursday. If you are not able to get a PCR test on campus or in the community, you can use an at-home rapid antigen test, available at pharmacies and other retailers. (Note: at-home tests are not acceptable to enter the U.S. by air.)
- If you are testing before travel, limit your activity to the extent possible between the time you’ve tested and when you are traveling.
- Take extra precautions when gathering with people 65 or older, people who are immunocompromised (i.e., have cancer), and people with chronic health conditions. These are the people who are most at risk for severe COVID, even if they are vaccinated. You should skip unnecessary activities beforehand, like going to a bar or restaurant, where you could be exposed before seeing them. Consider masking up around them and spreading out. We know this isn’t ideal, but to keep our loved ones healthy and safe, it’s important to not add on to their risk during the holidays.
- Do not travel or attend gatherings if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Remember that there is a wide range of symptoms and symptoms may range from none or mild to severe.
- Get your booster shot wherever one is available, if you haven’t already, and wear a well-fitting mask whenever you are indoors with people from outside your immediate household.
Campus leaders continue to monitor the situation and we will continue to share information with you in the coming weeks.