From: Dr. Thomas McLarney, Director of Medical Services
Date: Monday December 6, 2021
To the campus community:
I’d like to take a moment to offer information about the Omicron variant, answer some questions about boosters, and remind you of the University’s approach to isolation and quarantine.
As you know, we have seen a fluctuation in the number of COVID-19 cases on campus over the past several weeks. Thanks to an almost fully vaccinated campus and our mask mandate, we had very few cases at the beginning of the semester. Those numbers rose before Thanksgiving, but we have seen a reduction over the past week. The increase in cases is a reminder that we all still need to be diligent and adhere to all the safety protocols outlined on Keep Wes Safe website.
Increased cases of many viral illnesses, including COVID-19, are more prevalent in the colder months as activities move inside. Thanks to our safety protocols, we have not seen spread in classroom settings. Spread of COVID-19 appears to be happening primarily through indoor, unmasked socialization.
We are learning more every day about the newest variant. There is concern that its multiple mutations may make the strain more easily transmissible. This question will be answered as scientists learn more about Omicron. Early reports indicate that the variant doesn’t cause more serious disease but, again, more study is needed. Scientists have yet to determine whether natural immunity or vaccine mediated immunity will guard against Omicron.
To protect ourselves against Omicron, we should:
- Get a booster if six months have elapsed since your last Pfizer or Moderna vaccination or two months have passed since receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
- Mask indoors, even when visiting friends and colleagues.
- Avoid large group gatherings.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Avoid contact with those with medical conditions that will put them at risk if they develop COVID-19.
According to our records, the timing of the second round of COVID-19 vaccinations should allow for most students, faculty, and staff to meet the January 14 booster requirement deadline. If you have already gotten your booster, please upload your record to WesPortal. For those who are currently eligible for the booster and have yet to receive their shot, check with your local pharmacies.
For individuals—faculty, students, and staff—who are not eligible by January 14, we recommend following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to determine the timeline and the right booster for their particular situation. Our interpretation of the CDC guidelines is that those who are fully vaccinated with any vaccine (including WHO-and CDC-approved vaccines not approved by the FDA) can receive the Pfizer booster after six months has elapsed.
Students who are not yet eligible to receive a booster by January 14 because of the date of their second dose will not be penalized. However, they should get a booster within 30 days of the six-month anniversary of their second dose. Faculty and staff should consult the COVID-19 Vaccination Booster Policy for more information.
Reminders about Isolation and Quarantine
A person with a positive COVID-19 test needs to strictly isolate for 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated and boosted. They can leave isolation after 10 days if they are feeling better (you don’t have to be asymptomatic) and there has not been a fever in the last 24 hours of isolation, without the use of fever reducers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.
An unvaccinated person who is in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will need to quarantine per CDC guidelines. If individuals who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic are identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they do not need to quarantine. They will need to get tested in five to seven days, wear a mask indoors and outdoors until they receive a negative test result, and report any concerning symptoms to their health care provider.
We can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the fall semester of 2021. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.
Wishing you all peace, health, and wellness,
Dr. Tom McLarney