UConn opens at red level as omicron surges across country

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On Dec. 30, former UConn Interim President Andrew Agwunobi announced to the UConn community via email that the beginning of the spring 2022 semester would begin with a two-week online period. In this period, most students would be asked to stay home and all students would have to begin the semester online. Included in this announcement, students who must stay on campus during the two-week online period must observe “red” level COVID-19 precautions. This is a change from the “orange” level of precaution that was in effect on campus last semester. 

Included in the general red level guidelines for students on campus is guidance on mask-wearing, social distancing and event parameters. Mask-wearing is required both indoors and outdoors in most circumstances. Six-foot social distancing is required at all times indoors and required outdoors when masks are not being worn. Finally, all events indoor and outdoor will require masks and will be held at 50% capacity. All these guidelines must be followed regardless of vaccination status per the university. A full breakdown of campus guidelines during the online period can be found here

Dr. Agwunobi’s announcement to students on Dec. 30 cited the rising COVID-19 positivity rates across the state of Connecticut and the nation, largely being fueled by the new omicron variant driving a new wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

“Given a recent sharp increase in student COVID-19 positivity rates and the increasing prevalence across Connecticut and the nation, the University of Connecticut, in consultation with student affairs, academic, administrative, and Board leadership has decided as a safety precaution to delay the student residential move-in by two weeks,” Dr. Agwunobi said. 

While the university will open in the red level, Dr. Agwunobi did acknowledge that this can change as the realities of the pandemic changes.  

“This is subject to further change based on the course of the pandemic,” Dr. Agwunobi said. 

“This is subject to further change based on the course of the pandemic.”

Dr. Agwunobi, former UConn Interim President

When asked if there were any specific health goals that the university would like to reach in order to move the COVID-19 precaution level, University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said there are no specific percentages that would trigger such a change.  

“There aren’t certain percentages of minimum/maximum cases that trigger the change between orange and red, or vice versa,” Reitz said via email. “Rather, those decisions come as the University assesses factors such as speed and severity of the spread of the virus, and the ability to contain cases and prevent further transmission, especially considering the congregate living conditions in residence halls.” 

Reitz continued to state that the university has had to implement more precautions to prevent a surge on campus due to the greater transmissibility of the omicron variant. She concluded by saying that UConn Health officials will be continuously looking at the factors determining alert level throughout the semester and change accordingly.  

“Right now, it’s clear that the omicron variant is very aggressive in its spread and easily contagious, so the precautions in the “red” alert category are needed to help ensure a successful return to in-person campus operations. UConn officials are always reviewing all of those factors, though, and will adjust the category as warranted,” Reitz said.

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