Editor’s Note: Read the Spanish version of this article here.
With the start of the spring semester, Colorado State University students and staff are returning to campus alongside the new omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The omicron variant, first detected in November 2021, likely spreads more easily than the original virus and is attributed to many breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We anticipate that we will experience an increase in cases during the next several days to weeks and that a peak in cases likely will come fairly quickly,” a Jan. 13 email from the CSU Pandemic Preparedness Team read.
“We have been preparing contingency plans for an omicron wave and potential scenarios for increases in cases among our community members,” the Pandemic Preparedness Team’s email said. “As part of this preparation, we have worked with our University’s modeling experts in COVID(-19) forecasting what to expect.”
Upon returning to campus, all students and faculty are required to perform a one-time saliva screening before classes begin, according to a Pandemic Preparedness Team announcement from Jan. 3. CSU will not accept results from home tests or county testing sites. Saliva screening appointments are offered at multiple locations on and near campus and may be scheduled online.
This semester, “Colorado State University will implement a COVID(-19) booster requirement for those who are on campus in the spring of 2022 for learning or working,” according to an announcement from CSU President Joyce McConnell.
Similar to the fall semester protocols but now including the new booster requirement, “anyone not meeting this new definition of fully vaccinated must screen twice a week for the entire semester,” the Pandemic Preparedness Team announcement said. Students can submit their COVID-19 booster and vaccine information through the CSU health portal.
Students with unique circumstances may be accommodated within the remaining, previously designated quarantine and isolation spaces and will not be required to isolate or quarantine in their regular room.” -CSU COVID Information & Resources website
Also unchanged from last semester, masks are required to be worn inside all University buildings except for students in their own dorm room or when alone in a space such as an office or study room, according to the Pandemic Preparedness Team announcement.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, cloth masks are not as effective as tri-layer, surgical-style masks and N95 masks, (which are) available at retail stores and pharmacies,” the Pandemic Preparedness Team announcement said. “If possible, opt for these styles over cloth.”
If an individual believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or is exhibiting symptoms, the University instructs them to use the COVID-19 Reporter, which has been updated “to provide specific direction to those reporting a possible exposure to free up our Public Health Office to focus on individuals who are positive for COVID(-19),” according to the Jan. 13 email from the Pandemic Preparedness Team.
In the event of a positive COVID-19 result from a saliva screening or test, students will receive instructions on how to isolate. Due to the predicted rise in cases on campus, the Pandemic Preparedness Team developed a plan for students to isolate in their own rooms rather than designated quarantine spaces. The University will ask students to practice these isolate-in-place measures once 50% of available quarantine space has been occupied or if Housing & Dining Services staff levels are unable to support the relocation.
“Isolate-in-place means that students who test positive will isolate in their room for five days,” the University COVID Information & Resources website states.
Roommates of an infected student who are fully vaccinated and not exhibiting symptoms are not required to isolate.
“Students with unique circumstances may be accommodated within the remaining, previously designated quarantine and isolation spaces and will not be required to isolate or quarantine in their regular room,” states the CSU COVID Information & Resources website.
Housing & Dining Services will be delivering meals to quarantining students until more than 150 students are in isolation schoolwide.
“At that point, residence hall students in isolation or quarantine will be required to pick up their meals from one designated dining facility,” according to the webpage. HDS will use Durrell Dining Center for quarantine meal pickup.
CSU protocols have and will continue to change in accordance with public health guidelines.
Reach Samy Gentle at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @samy_gentle_.