IWU announces updated protocols ahead of Omicron variant

Sophia Heilman

Graphic: MCHD

As the semester comes to a close, IWU announced their expectations for students’ return to campus in January on Wednesday, December 1. The announcement came in the midst of breaking stories about a new variant of COVID-19 identified in the U.S.  

On December 1, a  case of COVID-19 in California was caused by the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529). According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the individual who tested positive with a variant case had returned to the U.S. A second case was identified in Minnesota on December 2. The Omicron variant is similar to the prominent Delta variant— the latter is currently the dominant lineage of COVID-19. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variant accounts for 99.9 percent of cases in the US currently. Both variants are being watched by the CDC due to their cluster of mutations that could make them more easily transmissible. Omicron and Delta variants can affect vaccinated individuals. 

The University announced on Wednesday that IWU will not require asymptomatic, vaccinated students to present a negative test when they return to campus next year. Unlike last year, when students were required to get tested before they could receive access to their rooms, the University has scaled back to a recommendation of testing rather than a requirement. 

“I think that as long as students are sharing spaces immediately after traveling, negative tests should be required before they can leave their rooms,” senior Alexis Ries said. 

According to Dean Karla Carney-Hall, only students who received an exemption for the COVID-19 vaccination are required to get a non-rapid PCR test within 72 hours of arriving on campus. Unvaccinated students must present an image of the negative results to Arnold Health Services within 24 hours of arrival or the first business day after your arrival. 

Vaccinated students that are presenting a cough, low grade fever, mild congestion or fatigue but have not been officially diagnosed with something other than COVID will also be required to present test results upon arrival. 

“We continue to monitor transmission, including the new Omicron variant, and will adjust campus protocols as needed,” Carney-Hall said. 

Students who want to get tested before leaving campus can do so on Wednesday, December 8.

Outside of campus, McLean County reported 673 new infections since November 24. The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) also reported that much of Illinois was experiencing high transmission rates currently. The seven-day test positivity rate moved to 8.1 percent as of November 30. 

First, second, and booster doses of vaccines through the MCHD will take place on December 9 from 10:00-3:00 p.m. and December 16 from 10:00-3:00 at Grossinger Motors Arena.