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UW Adjusts COVID Approach From Containment to Management; Eliminates Mass Testing Requirement

(CBS News)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 8:42 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (PRESS RELEASE) - The rapid spread of the Omicron variant -- and the need to move from attempting to contain COVID-19 to managing the virus -- have prompted changes in the University of Wyoming’s plans for the spring semester.

Instead of requiring all students and employees to be tested for COVID-19 Jan. 12-16, UW will offer voluntary testing for members of the campus community on those days -- with plans to resume weekly random-sample testing of 3 percent of the campus community Jan. 18.

“There’s already good reason to believe that the virus, particularly the Omicron variant, is widespread in our community. Positivity rates are now growing rapidly, and the risk of creating an environment for further transmission at a mass testing event likely would offset information we would gain from it,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “We’re making this late change in plans in response to the rapidly changing landscape caused by Omicron, which is highly transmissible but appears to cause less severe illness than previous versions of COVID-19.”

All students, faculty and staff had been scheduled to receive individual emails starting today (Friday) directing them to schedule testing appointments between Jan. 12-16. Instead of conducting required tests on those days, UW will offer voluntary testing at the same time and location -- 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Crane-Hill Dining Center -- for asymptomatic individuals who schedule their testing online at this booking site.

Under the testing program that resumes Jan. 18, a weekly random sample of 3 percent of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested. This diagnostic testing will take place at the Crane-Hill Dining Center as well. Employees and students can opt out of random-sample testing if they will not be on campus for the week; have been diagnosed with COVID within the last 90 days; or are sick or in quarantine. Voluntary testing will continue to be available as well.

As of Thursday, there were 82 active cases of COVID-19 among the UW community -- 22 employees, 15 on-campus students and 45 off-campus students.

“Based upon what we’re seeing around the country and the state, it is no longer practical to think that we’re going to contain the Omicron variant in our community,” Seidel says. “What we can do is encourage people to take actions to protect their personal health, and that of their families and friends, by mitigating the spread to the extent possible -- and reducing the chance of severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

In that vein, the university will emphasize its current mask requirement for most indoor spaces, including encouragement of more effective masks; continue to strongly encourage vaccination and boosters, which significantly reduce risk of serious illness; and follow Wyoming Department of Health guidance when it comes to quarantine, isolation and staying home when sick. Voluntary testing also is encouraged.

“While it appears the semester will start with a lot of COVID -- with a shift toward milder symptoms or even asymptomatic infections -- experts say there’s reason for optimism that we will emerge from pandemic conditions sooner than later,” Seidel says.

More information about UW’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions about testing and other COVID-19 issues may call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.

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