COVID on campus

Omicron variant poses a new potential threat


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The news column “COVID on campus” posts relevant COVID-19 news every week for UWEC students.

As UW-Eau Claire sits on the precipice of finals week, to be immediately followed by winter break, students and faculty continue to cope with the struggles of COVID-19 and its hold on the campus as well as the rest of the world. 

According to the UW-Eau Claire COVID-19 dashboard, as of Dec. 6, the vaccination rate among UW-Eau Claire students sits at over 83% with a total of 7,866 students vaccinated in total. 

In the week leading up to Dec. 6, there were 119 COVID tests done for on-campus students, all of which came back negative. Off-campus students as well as teachers combined for a total of 199 tests which also all came back negative, according to the dashboard.

So far, the UW-Eau Claire COVID-19 Dashboard has not shown a spike in the number of positive cases since students returned to campus after fall break. According to the dashboard, the amount of positive cases has hovered between 0% and 0.8% since the beginning of November.

In the county of Eau Claire, the percentage of people who have completed the full vaccination series has reached 56.5%, as of Dec. 3. This is according to the Eau Claire City-County Situation Report for the week of Dec. 3.

According to the report, areas of highest risk continue to include gatherings of unvaccinated individuals, particularly when indoors. 

The number of weekly new cases in Eau Claire county, according to the report, is down to 16 individuals from the week prior for a total of 427. 

Local data suggests that about a quarter of the population ages 5-11 have received their first dose, but vaccination rates continue to lag behind in Black and Indigenous groups, according to the report.

Recently, a new variant of the coronavirus has been making headlines worldwide. The name of the new variant of COVID-19 is Omicron. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it was first seen on Nov. 11 in Botswana. A few days later the variant was also detected in South Africa.

The first case in the United States was identified on Dec. 1. According to the CDC, the new variant has been seen in at least 18 U.S. states including Wisconsin and neighboring Minnesota. 

More data is needed to understand the full nature of the Omicron variant, says the CDC website. The organization believes Omicron will spread more easily than the first strand of the virus. 

The CDC also believes that existing COVID vaccines will still retain some efficacy with the new variant, though people who are fully vaccinated can still become infected. 

While scientists continue to find out more regarding the new variant, the CDC emphasises a focus on the tried and true ways of combating the virus.

According to the CDC, vaccines are the best public health measure to slow down COVID-19 and prevent new strains from developing. They also stress the importance of masks and their role in preventing the spread of all coronavirus strands. 

More information on the new variant of COVID-19 and other COVID related information can be found on the CDC website.

Obadiya can be reached at [email protected]