The University of Connecticut has seen an increase in positive COVID-19 cases but there is not an outbreak on campus. As of now, precautions will not change going into the spring semester.
With the arrival of the omicron variant in the U.S, busy Thanksgiving travel and the delta variant still hanging around, UConn has seen an increase in positive COVID-19 cases, despite a high level of vaccination. Dean of Students Eleanor JB Daugherty said this was consistent with the state of Connecticut and the nation as a whole, but the cases don’t qualify as an outbreak.
“After reviewing the contact tracing for those testing positive and observing the wastewater data for the past week, we do not currently appear to have an outbreak on campus,” Daugherty said in an email. “These cases are occurring through identified close contacts and testing of symptomatic students. Based on that information, we are testing, isolating, and quarantining students as appropriate.”
According to the CDC, the delta variant is still the main variant circulating, but omicron’s breakthrough infections in those who are fully vaccinated and its high rate of transmission has led to increased worry. Since this variant is new, there isn’t an abundance of data, but the CDC expects the vaccines available to the public will be able to prevent against severe cases of COVID-19.
“Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur,” said the CDC’s omicron variant page. “The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.”
As of Wednesday, Dec. 8, 98% of Storrs residential students are partially or fully vaccinated, with only 37 partially vaccinated. There are 27 current positive or symptomatic cases which remains on trend with Daugherty’s previous email from Dec. 1 reporting more than 20 Storrs students had tested positive between Nov. 18 and Dec. 1 and ten students received positive results while away on Thanksgiving break.
“That is a notable increase in comparison to our past positivity over the course of the semester. Most of those students told us of their positive test results before they returned to campus and they are isolating at home,” Daugherty said.
Despite this increase, UConn will remain in the moderate orange zone, which has been in place for the entire fall semester. This means masks are required for everyone indoors with no physical distancing required. Daugherty did say this could be subject to change depending on case numbers and spread. Campus could resort to residential quarantines and increased testing if necessary.
“The SHaW medical team and I will be closely watching test results as well as what we learn through contact tracing and wastewater sampling to determine if we are experiencing an outbreak and if we need to contain the spread,” Daugherty said. “Yes, this could mean residential quarantines and increased testing in areas where we see a high presence of COVID. Additional testing and possibly residential quarantine could occur even if you are vaccinated.”
Student Health and Wellness encourages students to check their eligibility for a booster or a third dose of the vaccine, and booster clinics are still being offered until next Tuesday and will be offered in the spring as well. Scheduling for a booster can be done through students’ ShaW Patient Portal.