As the COVID-19 pandemic grips the country yet again, The Stanford Daily staff is keeping you informed about omicron at Stanford, Santa Clara County and in colleges across the country. Check back here for updates on the latest coronavirus outbreak and Stanford’s response.
Tracking COVID-19 in Santa Clara County (source: covid19.sccgov.org):
Cumulative COVID-19 cases: 244,299
7-day rolling average of new cases: 4,732
Thursday, Jan. 20
11:30 a.m. Petition against Stanford’s COVID-19 booster mandate garners over 1,800 signatures by Luc Alvarez: A petition organized by first year Management Science and Engineering Ph.D. student Monte Fischer calls Stanford’s booster vaccine mandate “unethical and coercive,” stating that COVID-19 fears within the community are “overblown” given omicron’s limited severity among young, vaccinated populations like the majority of the student body. Fischer previously criticized the mandate in a Jan. 13 Daily op-ed. The petition has garnered over 1,800 signatures to date, though it remains unclear how many of these signatures actually come from members of the Stanford community. In a comment to The Mercury News, University Spokesperson EJ Miranda said Stanford’s booster requirement “is intended to support sustained immunity against COVID-19 and is consistent with the advice of county and federal public health leaders.” Stanford’s COVID-19 booster mandate takes effect on Jan. 31. The mandate does not apply to students with University approved medical and religious exemptions.
Tuesday, Jan. 18
6:10 p.m. ASSU offers resources and support to students in isolation by Madeline Grabb: The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) is working to provide students with isolation-related support, according to an email sent Tuesday afternoon. As of Tuesday, Jan. 18, approximately 325 Stanford students are currently isolating in University housing after testing positive for COVID-19.
Students were encouraged to fill out a form included in the email to receive support from the ASSU “in the form of food, hygiene supplies, PPE, medicine, school supplies or anything else you can’t access while in isolation.” For students who are currently isolating over 15 miles from campus and in need of support, the ASSU sent a second form for affected individuals to complete. Requests for support will be addressed by student volunteers, and the email includes a volunteer sign-up form for those who want to support students in isolation. Volunteers are required to have returned a negative Color COVID test and will be contacted by representatives from the ASSU after filling out the form.
Saturday, Jan. 15
7:25 p.m. Vaden Health Center offering COVID-19 booster shots by Tom Quach: Stanford’s Vaden Health Center began offering Moderna booster shots for students on Jan. 13 at the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation. Students will need to schedule an appointment online to select a time from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Eligible students include those who have “received 2 doses of Pfizer more than 5 months ago, 2 doses of Moderna more than 5 months ago or 1 dose of Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine more than 2 months ago,” according to Stanford’s announcement. During the week of Jan. 24-28 and on Jan. 31, Pfizer booster shots will be available for individuals who have “WHO approved vaccinations and are ineligible for the Moderna booster.”
Wednesday, Dec. 29
12:53 p.m. Princeton University pushes move-in date back for most students by Nadia Abdu: Princeton University will not allow students to return to campus on the previously scheduled date of Jan. 7, instead postponing move-in to Jan. 14, university officials announced Monday. Students on campus will also be prohibited from traveling outside of Mercer County and Plainsboro Township barring “extraordinary circumstances,” until Feb. 15. Despite the postponements to student arrivals, the university maintained that the next term will start on Jan. 24 following a staggered arrival.
Tuesday, Dec. 28
1:38 p.m. U.S. health authorities cut COVID-19 isolation requirements from 10 days to five by Vivian Lee: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday shortened the recommended isolation period for asymptomatic individuals infected with COVID-19 from 10 to five days. If the infected person does not have symptoms at the end of the five-day isolation, CDC recommends that they be allowed to leave isolation as long as they wear a mask around others for the next five days.
The CDC also recommends a five-day quarantine followed by five days of strict mask wearing for anyone exposed to COVID-19, including those who are either unvaccinated or who have not received a vaccine booster while eligible. If such a quarantine “is not feasible,” the CDC recommends 10 days of strict mask wearing for those exposed to COVID-19 who are within the aforementioned categories. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state will align with the new CDC guidelines. Stanford has not yet adjusted its policies for quarantine and isolation time in response to the updated guidelines. The University currently recommends that those who test positive plan to be in isolation for up to 10 days.
Thursday, Dec. 23
4:31 p.m. Princeton lifts suspension on international travel for graduate students by Nadia Abdu:
Princeton University on Tuesday lifted its ban on university-sanctioned international travel for graduate students. The university is still restricting university-sponsored international travel for undergraduate students — extending the policy that the school implemented in November. While there are no restrictions on personal travel, Princeton officials urge “anyone considering personal international travel to weigh carefully the risks involved.” During the spring semester, the university intends to allow graduate students to travel to countries with a Level 1, 2 or 3 travel advisory and will continue to permit domestic travel for undergraduates.
2:22 p.m. Yale delays start of spring semester, shortens spring break by Bridie Beamish: Yale University announced on Wednesday that it will delay the start of its spring semester from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25, shortening spring break by a week and beginning the first few weeks of instruction virtually. In-person classes are expected to resume on Feb. 7, according to the email, which was sent to students, faculty and staff. While the changes apply to undergraduate and graduate instruction, Yale President Peter Salovey and Provost Scott Strobel emphasized that research and other university operations will resume with “appropriate safety precautions.” The spring semester start is delayed to Jan. 25 to accommodate make-up exams, resulting in a condensed spring break. Yale students are asked to return to campus housing starting Jan. 14 and no later than Feb. 4, university officials wrote in the announcement.
8:15 a.m. Amid surge in cases, Columbia introduces social life restrictions by Sophia Li:
Amid an unprecedented surge in on-campus cases, Columbia University announced new social life restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the highly transmissible omicron variant. The university recorded 849 positive tests among Columbia affiliates from Dec. 13 to Sunday with a test positivity rate of 4.64% — more than double the average 2.13% for the school’s surveillance program. Columbia officials on Monday implemented new safety measures prohibiting all Columbia-related social gatherings that do not have approval from the university and moving dining for students and faculty living off campus to a takeout model. The university’s health officials indicated that it is “likely” that this new spike in cases is caused by the omicron variant, which it described as more transmissible but less likely to cause severe illness compared to other variants.
Wednesday, Dec. 22
3 p.m. Seven University of California campuses opt for virtual January start as boosters are mandated by Diamy Wang: The University of California (UC) system is asking its nine campuses to reevaluate their return plans, allowing each campus to decide whether to start the spring term online in January. In a letter to UC chancellors, UC President Michael Drake ’71 wrote that a safe January return plan may require a remote start to instruction to allow students to test before returning to campus. Eligible students will also be required to receive a vaccine booster. The policy reversal also comes as a surprise to many after UC officials assured reporters on Dec. 16 that they had no intentions of going fully online in January.
UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz have announced plans for a two-week period of online learning starting Jan. 3. UC Davis announced a one-week remote period for students, faculty, and staff to “secure a negative COVID-19 test before attending classes or coming to work in person.” UC Berkeley and UC Merced have yet to announce plans to start the spring term online
2 p.m. California State University mandates booster shot for spring term By Isabella Bian The California State University (CSU) system announced Wednesday that it will require all eligible students, faculty, and staff to get a COVID-19 booster shot by Feb. 28. A similar booster mandate was announced by the University of California (UC) system on Tuesday. CSU’s requirement will apply only to affiliates accessing university facilities or programs, and does not apply to employees represented by labor unions until the CSU concludes negotiations. Vaccination is “important in light of the rapid rise of cases of COVID-19 throughout the state and nation as the Omicron variant spreads,” wrote CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro. “Implementing the booster requirement now will help mitigate the potential spread of the variant on campuses as they repopulate in January after the winter break.”
12 p.m. After COVID-19 outbreak, Cornell mandates booster shot for students, faculty and staff by Isabella Bian: Cornell University announced on Tuesday that it will mandate COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all students, faculty and staff for the spring semester, which begins on Jan. 25. The move comes after Cornell received national attention for a COVID-19 outbreak that infected more than 1,000 affiliates, prompting the university to close its Ithaca campus and move final exams online. Students, faculty and staff must report proof of their booster by Jan. 31 or 30 days after they become eligible, Cornell officials wrote in an email to the campus community. Those who are noncompliant “will be subject to appropriate action.” The university added that it “will work earnestly over the coming weeks to devise an approach to next semester that is both safe and sustainable, understanding that as we approach the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, we are all depleted from its impact.”
Tuesday, Dec. 21
11:00 a.m. Santa Clara County publicizes vaccination centers amid omicron spread by Diamy Wang: Santa Clara County is encouraging its residents to receive COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots by sharing resources to help the public schedule vaccine appointments. The county said in a tweet on Monday that the Morgan Hill and San Martin centers “have plenty of availability” for people ages five and up to be vaccinated and for all eligible people to receive their booster shot. The locations are accepting drop-in and scheduled appointments. The county’s messaging comes amid concerns about the spread of the omicron variant across California and a spike in holiday-related COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday, 87% of intensive care unit beds in Santa Clara County are occupied, according to data from the Los Angeles Times. The Morgan Hill vaccination site, located at the DePaul Health Center, is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The San Martin Vaccination Center, located at 90 Highland Ave., is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 20
10:00 p.m. Pomona College to require COVID-19 booster by Carolyn Considine: Pomona College will require eligible students, faculty and staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot by Jan. 18. Pomona officials wrote that the policy is part of the school’s efforts to prepare “for new challenges posed by the Omicron variant.” Individuals who are not yet eligible to receive a booster due to age or other considerations will need to get the booster no later than seven days after they become eligible. School officials will provide more details about a potential religious exemption in early January. Pitzer college joined Pomona in mandating vaccine boosters for its students, but the remaining three Claremont colleges have yet to implement the requirement.
6:15 p.m. Hospitalizations in California rise as omicron spreads by Scarlett Saldaña: As of Sunday, there were 3,523 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in California, which represents a 9.6% increase from two weeks ago. An additional 331 patients are thought to have the disease but have not received a test yet, according to data from the Los Angeles Times. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that the omicron variant now accounts for almost 75% of all COVID-19 cases nationwide. With 49 recorded cases of the omicron variant and 184,700 cases of the delta variant in California as of Wednesday, public health experts are sounding the alarm that the recent data is cause for concern. While it is not clear whether omicron can cause more severe illness than other variants, the variant is highly transmissible and could overwhelm hospitals amid staffing shortages and higher demand for medical treatment. Public health authorities are urging Californians and Americans across the country to take the necessary precautions to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the omicron variant is “raging through the world” and underscored the importance of being vaccinated: “It is critical to get vaccinated,” he said at a recent White House Press Briefing. “If you are vaccinated, it is critical for optimal protection to get boosted.”
5 p.m. Northwestern moves to online learning for the first two weeks of winter quarter by Isabella Bian: Northwestern University announced on Monday that instruction will take place online for the first two weeks of January amid on-campus COVID-19 surges. In-person instruction will resume on Jan. 18 after a two-week quarantine period that starts at the beginning of the winter quarter on Jan. 3. Northwestern reported 476 positive cases between Dec. 13 and Dec. 19, the highest number of positive cases in a single week for the university this academic year. Last week, the university reported 205 positive cases. Though the total case counts decreased week over week, the positivity rate jumped from 2.48% to 5.98% as students left campus for their winter break. University officials also announced that Northwestern will require students, faculty and staff to receive a booster shot by Jan. 30 or within 30 days after becoming eligible.
4:15 p.m. Brown reports increase in asymptomatic cases following Thanksgiving break by Isabella Bian: Brown University recorded new highs in asymptomatic COVID-19 cases in the weeks that followed Thanksgiving break, The Brown Daily Herald reported. The record 55 asymptomatic cases last week represent an increase from the previous high of 24 positive cases from the week of Dec. 5. The surge in asymptomatic cases came as many students returned to campus after traveling across the country for Thanksgiving. This year was the first in which Brown students were allowed to travel home for the break since 2019. Throughout this academic year, COVID-19 testing has been optional for vaccinated students, indicating that the number of asymptomatic cases on campus could be higher than the reported number. Brown announced on Dec. 14 that it will require all students to take a COVID-19 test within two days before returning to campus for the spring semester and notified all undergraduate students to expect testing at least twice a week the first week back.
12 p.m. As omicron spreads, Stanford infectious disease expert urges public to delay gatherings, travel by Isabella Bian: Stanford infectious disease assistant professor Jorge Salinas is urging the public to refrain from gathering and traveling during the holiday season amid rising risks posed by the omicron variant. The variant “transmits so well that it produces explosive outbreaks,” Salinas told ABC News in an interview. “When it enters a gathering, it can affect everybody at the gathering.” Salinas said that if gathering is necessary, there are ways to minimize the risks posed by the highly transmissible variant. Salinas recommended that those gathering ensure that everyone is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, open windows and doors for ventilation, wear masks and limit the number of attendees. “The good news is that we know how to tackle it,” Salinas said of the variant. “We just need to have delayed gratification, delay our gatherings for the holidays, or modify them and know that in a month or two we will be able to begin relaxing again.”
Sunday, Dec. 19
10:15 p.m. Yale raises campus COVID-19 alert level to orange by Chuying Huo: After recording its largest single-day case count on Friday with 37 cases, Yale University raised its COVID-19 alert level from yellow to orange. The move comes a day after Yale announced that all final exams must be completed online, allowing students to leave campus early. Despite the university’s student vaccination rate of more than 99%, Yale health officials said that transmission of the coronavirus at Yale and in New Haven is far greater now than just a few weeks ago. The orange alert level indicates a moderate risk level and could trigger policy changes including some online-only courses, targeted quarantines, restricted access to campus for visitors and additional testing for some campus populations. Yale’s spring semester is still slated to start in-person on Jan. 18, though administrators have not ruled out an online start to the semester, according to the Yale Daily News.
5:15 p.m. Sen. Cory Booker ’91 M.A. ’92 tests positive for COVID-19 amid virus surge by Isabella Bian: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) ’91 M.A. ’92 tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. Booker wrote in a statement on Twitter that his symptoms are mild and that he is “beyond grateful to have received two doses of vaccine and, more recently, a booster — I’m certain that without them I would be doing much worse.” Booker’s positive test comes amid a spike in New Jersey COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant. The state totaled 12,531 cases over Thursday and Friday, and reported 6,271 new cases on Thursday alone — the highest single-day COVID-19 case total since January. Booker is not the only senator to test positive for the virus in recent days. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also announced her positive test on Sunday and reported mild symptoms. Booker and Warren encouraged those who are eligible to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot.
4 p.m. NHL postpones San Jose Sharks home games due to COVID-19 concerns by Bridie Beamish:
The National Hockey League (NHL) postponed two San Jose Sharks home games, the team announced in a tweet on Sunday. The League elected to reschedule the Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 matchups against the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs because of COVID-19 concerns surrounding cross-country travel.The NHL is postponing all games in which a U.S.-based team faces a Canadian-based team to reduce the spread of the virus. Amid rising concerns about the omicron variant, the NHL also announced the postponement of 20 other upcoming games “given the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions.” Despite rising COVID-19 cases across the League, the NHL clarified in an announcement that the 2021-22 season will continue.
2 p.m. USC to announce online learning and vaccine booster updates next week by Caprielle Eden: The University of Southern California (USC) is likely to mandate COVID-19 booster shots for students and could start the spring semester online, a university official wrote in an email to the campus community. A decision will be made by the end of next week. The school later clarified that it does not intend to hold spring semester remotely and is still planning for in-person instruction.Though a final decision has yet to be announced, USC officials said that any measure taken will be based on “evidence-based practices and public health guidance.”“We know that booster shots are critical to protecting members of our community from serious illness,” wrote USC Chief Health Officer Sarah Van Orman in the announcement. Almost 2,000 individuals have signed a petition urging USC to keep in-person classes in the interest of students’ mental health.
1:55 p.m. Rising COVID-19 cases interrupt college basketball by Isabella Bian: Basketball programs across the NCAA are putting their programs on pause as COVID-19 cases surge through universities across the country. On Dec. 18, UCLA canceled its final non-conference game against Cal Poly, marking the team’s third consecutive cancellation this week. Just days earlier on Dec. 15, the Bruins called off a game against Alabama state an hour before tip-off when UCLA head coach Mick Cronin became subject to COVID-19 protocols. The COVID-19 struggles have not been limited to UCLA — earlier this month, Washington forfeited its game against UCLA due to pandemic concerns. The Memphis men’s basketball program also called off its Dec. 18 matchup against Tennessee an hour before tip-off. To date this season, over 20 men’s basketball games and 36 women’s basketball games have been affected by COVID-19 protocols.
Saturday, Dec. 18
10 p.m. Princeton cancels most spring study abroad programs by Isabella Bian: Amid rising COVID-19 concerns, Princeton University canceled spring 2022 study abroad programs in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Ireland, Israel, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, The Daily Princetonian reported. The decision comes two days after Princeton moved final exams online and mandated booster shots ahead of the school’s spring semester. Study abroad programs in Kenya, Panama and Italy are still scheduled to occur. Princeton made its decision based on the status of the pandemic in each country, specifically “support on the ground, travel regulations and restrictions, and COVID rates,” a university official told The Daily Princetonian. In October, Stanford canceled its study abroad program in Kyoto, but the University has yet to announce updates about the status of the remaining winter quarter programs.