As we embark on a new semester and the Omicron variant surges, students are wondering what the semester is going to look like. Are students required to wear masks? Will classes be going back online? What are safety precautions?
Robin Ebmeyer, director of UVU’s emergency and safety management, was interviewed and addressed some of these pressing questions.
According to Ebmeyer the precautions and the protocols are remaining the same as the previous semester. “If you have any kind of symptoms, stay away, don’t come to class,” said Ebmeyer. “Washing your hands [is important] and don’t touch your face, spacing, masking is important and getting vaccinated.”
COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high, with over 3,000 cases from both students and faculty since 2020, according to UVU’s current case count. Ebmeyer stated we have “more [cases] than it was [in the beginning] but it is also a different virus than we started out with and we have a lot more immunity to it. This is a completely different variant, it doesn’t seem to be as severe but is very contagious.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the Omicron variant has been detected in most states and territories and is rapidly increasing the proportion of COVID-19 cases it is causing. The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
“[What we can do to slow the spread is] spacing from people, masking, vaccinating, washing hands, and think about congregating with people, especially right now … Of all the tests that we do [on campus] 20% are positive, and it is higher in the community,” said Ebmeyer. “I’m vaccinated and boosted and I’m still wearing a mask because omicron is so contagious.”
Free COVID-19 testing and vaccination continue at UVU, to make an appointment visit their website. According to UVU the tests provided are non-invasive and offer rapid results. Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J vaccines are available to all students, faculty, staff and their immediate family. Booster vaccines are also available.
“What is it going to take to close everything down?” said Ebmeyer. “We did this a couple years ago because we had no immunity, we had no vaccine, we had nothing. At this point in time, with this particular variant, it is just wildly contagious and there isn’t much we can do to slow it. So standby for more information, it looks like right this minute it’s going to be more of a flexibility.”
“There is a law in Utah that says the only entity that can mandate or require a mask is the health department,” stated Ebmeyer. “They have indicated that they will not make a mask mandate as of a couple days ago.”
“We are a mask-recommended university, face coverings over the nose and mouth are recommended in all campus buildings. We need you to take care of yourself and stay mindful of the symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms include fever or chills, loss of taste or smell, nausea, and a sore throat. For convenience, we provided a self-assessment checklist,” according to UVU’s website.
“As announced on August 30, 2021, COVID-19 vaccination is required for UVU students starting spring semester 2022. Read the full statement here.”