The new Omicron variant of COVID-19 is “not a cause for panic,” University administrators announced in a Tuesday email.
The variant was first detected on Nov. 25 in South Africa and has since been discovered in over a dozen other countries. The United States “has yet to detect a case,” but Provost Persis Drell, School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor and Associate Vice Provost Russell Furr wrote that many epidemiologists predict that the U.S. will soon confirm a case of the new variant.
According to the email, Stanford Medicine’s clinical virology laboratory is actively monitoring the COVID-19 variants it is testing.
“The lab screens all positive tests that it receives and will detect the Omicron variant should it receive a positive case,” Drell, Minor and Furr wrote. It is unclear whether the lab is testing all of students’ weekly or twice-weekly positive Color tests or only certain positive tests submitted directly to the lab.
Stanford will continue to adhere to its ongoing safety protocols, including “vaccination requirements, indoor mask mandates and weekly testing.” Administrators also took the opportunity to encourage those eligible for a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to schedule an appointment, writing that “our most important tool is vaccination.”
Instruction will continue as normal for the remainder of the quarter and students can “continue to expect in-person instruction for the winter quarter.” Drell, Minor and Furr reiterated that Stanford expects to provide details in early December about post-winter break protocols upon return to campus. The email also extended a warning to those traveling internationally over break to watch for possible travel restrictions implemented as a result of the new variant.
Little is yet known about the severity of the disease caused by the variant, which is currently being studied by scientists around the world.
“This variant calls upon us to remain thoughtfully prepared,” Drell, Minor and Furr wrote.