In an email sent to all students, Student Health Services (SHS) announced three free COVID-19 testing clinics scheduled for this week in SURC room 140. No appointment is necessary, however tests are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Testing clinics are scheduled for Jan. 12 – 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
SHS interim Medical Director Kerri Larson said the new strain is more contagious, and symptoms of the omicron variant affect different areas of the person compared to delta or alpha strains.
According to Larson, the omicron variant focuses more on non-respiratory symptoms rather than others, such as coughing or flu-like symptoms. Omicron symptoms that are more predominant include headaches, sore throat and so on.
“This variant, the omicron variant, is definitely more contagious. You know, easier to get,” Larson said. “People still do get sick, and there are still hospitalizations, but it seems like the hospitalizations are more people who are unvaccinated than vaccinated.”
According to the CDC website, the omicron variant is likely to spread more easily compared to the original strain, SARS-CoV-2, and it is unknown how the spread rate is compared to the delta variant.
Larson said that the CWU institution had discussed precautions before returning this quarter and had many suggestions for students, staff and faculty. In regards to masking, it is recommended to use a N95 or KN95 mask rather than a cloth. However if wearing just a cloth mask, consider double masking.
“I would recommend if you don’t have one of those [N95 or KN95 masks] available as you’re going out, you can also double mask,” Larson said. “So a little higher masking is going to be helpful with this as far as that goes.”
The testing and booster clinics held the first week of classes were an attempt to help minimize the spread after returning from break, and had a large outcome.
Over the three days of testing clinics, 805 tests were given, and 105 had positive results, meaning 13% of the CWU population were infected with COVID-19 the week of the clinics. are, or were, infected with COVID-19. A booster shot clinic was held on Jan. 5, and 265 booster shots were administered.
Larson said professors can continue to keep classes safe by enforcing social distancing, ensuring they are vaccinated and practicing good masking. These guidelines can apply to students in these classes as well.
Good masking is considered when the person has the mask fitted well and over their nose, preventing their nose, mouth and chin from being exposed. It is recommended by the CDC to keep the mask on at all times when indoors and during crowded indoor or outdoor social situations in an area that could have a high COVID-19 presence.
Larson said the SHS provides testing for students who are symptomatic or have had high exposure to the virus, as well as providing booster shots. Both services are available for students by making an appointment.
The CDC website states that current vaccinations and booster shots are expected to prevent severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths from the omicron variant. The website does state that breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated are likely to occur, as some treatments are more effective and less effective to the new variant.