Live Updates: Tracking Omicron’s spread as students return to campus

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor

As students head back to Foggy Bottom for a spring semester that will begin online, read the latest on Omicron’s impact at GW.

Students are returning to campus as officials grapple with the highly contagious Omicron variant, opting to move classes online for one week with in-person classes resuming on Tuesday.

GW’s COVID-19 positivity rate had generally remained below 1 percent throughout the fall semester except for brief upticks, but cases spiked in the final days before winter break as Omicron began spreading in D.C. and on campus. Cases in D.C. have set new records in recent days, recently recording some of the highest case rates in the country.

To curb Omicron’s spread, officials are requiring students to receive a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine and undergo testing once every 15 days. Students with religious or medical exemptions to the vaccine requirement will test once a week.

Many indoor public venues in D.C., including restaurants and bars, have begun requiring proof of vaccination under a new citywide mandate.

As students head back to Foggy Bottom, here’s the latest on Omicron’s impact:

Latest COVID-19 Data: Wednesday, Jan. 12
Tests: 1,985
Positive Cases: 94
Positivity Rate: 4.74 percent

Source: GW COVID-19 Testing Dashboard

Jan. 12, 2022 at 2:07 p.m.
Officials reassert plans to return to in-person classes next week
The University affirmed its plans to resume in-person learning next week as COVID-19 cases in D.C. remain high and the spring semester gets underway.

Officials said in an email to the GW community Wednesday that in-person classes will resume on Tuesday, research and lab spaces will be able to return to full operations and University employees should return to their normal schedules from before the virtual period. GW will distribute N95 masks on campus to provide community members access to more effective masks, and officials are “strongly” encouraging members to wear N95 or KN95 masks or double-mask, the email states.

“Our Medical Advisory Group continues to monitor the rates of COVID-19 transmission on our campuses and locally, and we will provide any updates to you,” the email states.

In-person social gatherings will remain virtual or postponed, campus facilities like the University Student Center will be closed to the public and library access will be limited to students, faculty and staff. Athletic events will continue to be held without ticketed fans, and the Lerner Health and Wellness Center and West Hall Fitness Center will be closed.

Officials said they plan to resume in-person activities in a “phased approach” starting Feb. 1.

–Isha Trivedi

Jan. 11, 2022 at 10:02 p.m.
Bowser reinstates public health emergency
Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstated a public health emergency in the District Tuesday, allowing hospitals to better manage an influx in COVID-19 patients in light of recent staffing shortages.

The public health emergency lasts until Jan. 26 and allows hospitals to use out-of-state medical licenses and increase available staff. Bowser’s order is the city’s latest move to mitigate the effects of the Omicron variant’s rapid spread, which has continued to accelerate and limit public activity in D.C.

Bowser relaunched the city’s indoor mask mandate last month, and the District will start requiring proof of vaccination for entry to restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues Saturday.

“By declaring a public health emergency, the District and our healthcare partners can continue to respond expeditiously and safely to COVID-19 and its ongoing and changing impacts,” Bowser’s order reads.

–Zachary Blackburn

COVID-19 Data: Jan. 10-12
Tests: 6,897
Positive Cases: 349
Positivity Rate: 5.06 percent

Jan. 10, 2022 at 1:14 a.m.
GW prepared for ‘isolation-in-place’ strategy under heightened COVID-19 anticipation
Officials are prepared to implement an “isolation-in-place strategy” on campus if the number of positive COVID-19 cases exceeds isolation housing capacity, they announced in an email to residential students and families Thursday.

The email states the University reserved 250 beds at a nearby hotel to house students who must be “temporarily relocated” because of COVID-19 isolation during the spring semester. Administrators said they expect a “large number” of students returning from winter break to test positive for COVID-19, and they plan to ensure these students have access to medical care, course materials and dining resources while they isolate.

GW’s isolation housing is now five times larger than its capacity during the fall semester because of the new hotel space.

“We believe that the combination of our vaccine and booster mandates, routine testing and indoor mask requirement will help keep our community members protected from severe illness or hospitalization resulting from COVID-19,” the email reads.

–Nicholas Pasion

Jan. 8, 2022 at 6:20 p.m.
GW tightens spring residence hall guest policy as campus residents return
The University will restrict on-campus students from visiting other residence halls at the start of the spring semester, officials announced in an email Friday.

Students may only visit rooms in their own residence halls with a limit of one guest per room, but officials will adjust the policy in line with recommendations from its medical advisory team monitoring the pandemic, according to the email from Campus Living and Residential Education staff.

Officials said they encourage residents to return home to isolate for 10 days if they receive positive results from their arrival COVID-19 test at the student center, but students can also move into isolation housing on campus.

–Lauren Sforza

COVID-19 Data: Jan. 3-7
Tests: 6,282
Positive Cases: 642
Positivity Rate: 10.22 percent

Jan. 7, 2022 at 10:02 a.m.
Spring sorority recruitment turns virtual amid surge in COVID-19 cases
Spring sorority recruitment is taking place online this month as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the District.

Brian Joyce, the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said in an email that officials consulted with leaders from the Panhellenic Association and “other stakeholders” to move recruitment activities online in hopes of limiting COVID-19 transmission among GW community members.

“The Fraternity and Sorority Life office will continue to prioritize the health and safety of all of our community members by following the guidance of GW, our state and local officials and health professionals,” he said in the email. “We will continue conversations with chapter and association leaders to advise best practices on safety protocols, and we will encourage flexibility in our spring plans.”

–Abby Kennedy

Jan. 6, 2022 at 6:43 p.m.
GW to keep 10-day isolation period despite shortened CDC guidance
Officials will not shorten COVID-19 isolation and quarantine protocols for community members who test positive even as the CDC shortened its recommended quarantine period last month.

Officials said in an email sent to the GW community Tuesday that they will not change GW’s current 10-day isolation period if a community member tests positive for COVID-19. The CDC announced last month that people who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms only need to isolate for five days instead of the previous recommendation of 10 days.

“Our Medical Advisory Group continues to monitor the rates of COVID-19 transmission in the D.C. region,” the email states. “At this time, we do not anticipate any changes to the guidance provided to you prior to winter break.”

–Lauren Sforza

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