With the rise of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, Florida Southern College has updated its FSCares COVID-19 plan to maintain the health and wellness of FSC students, faculty and staff.
Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 has seen a myriad of variants, such as Beta, Alpha and the most well-known and frequent variant from last semester: Delta.
Omicron is the most recent evolution of the virus, discovered in Botswana and South Africa in late November 2021.
This variant is more transmissible than other variants and has resulted in a major spike in COVID-19 cases worldwide.
With this new surge of cases due to the Omicron variant, FSC decided to alter the COVID-19 policies once again to keep the FSC community as safe as possible.
All vaccinated students had to upload their vaccination cards to the portal and all unvaccinated students had to get a negative test seven days prior to returning to campus.
The biggest change is that masks are required everywhere indoors, which was how it was in the Fall 2021 term until early November when FSC announced that masks were no longer required in dining facilities and residence halls.
Vaccinated students who test positive do not have to quarantine unless they experience symptoms, in which they have to quarantine for at least five days, while unvaccinated students who test positive must quarantine at an off-campus facility until cleared to return to campus.
The FSCares plan also says unvaccinated students are required to get scheduled tests regularly, non-FSC students are not allowed in residence halls for visits and contact tracing is still in effect.
The United States set the record for the most reported cases in a day on Jan. 3, with 978,856 reported cases. According to the CDC, every U.S. state is marked as having high transmission for COVID-19, which estimates that nearly 59 percent of daily cases are caused by the Omicron variant.
This has resulted in Broadway shows closing, flights being canceled and even schools going virtual again.
“It’s thriving because it has these mutations that let it get by the vaccines pretty easily, so all these people that Delta couldn’t get to, Omicron can,” National Public Radio’s Will Stone said.
Because the variant began spreading around the holidays, many FSC students went home to celebrate and be with family, and many were infected with COVID-19. Luckily, students reported not having too many symptoms from the virus.
“I just recently had [COVID] over winter break, thankfully it wasn’t too bad because I have my vaccine, but it was upsetting to be stuck inside instead of celebrating with family,” freshman Hannah Atkinson said.
“My experience was that one night I had horrible chills to the point I had like 4 blankets on me,” freshman Logan Dill said. “I then decided to go get tested.”
As of Jan. 27, there have been a total of 468 students, faculty and staff tested for COVID-19 on campus, with 92 of them being positive.
There have been a total of 82 positive cases at off-campus testing sites.
“I am glad FSC is taking the proper precautions in order to not exacerbate this issue further,” senior Dominic Garrido said. “With the current protocols, which have proven to be successful thus far, I am glad they are in place.”
Despite the rise of Omicron and the mass increase of infections, cases are starting to drop. As of Jan. 18, the average infection count has been sitting at about 800,000 per day — down 47 percent compared to the previous few weeks.
Even though there’s currently a decline in cases, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warns citizens that the Omicron variant has yet to reach its peak.
“I think that the track this virus takes is the ups and downs, it gets bad then gets good then back to bad,” Dill said. “I think we will be back to how we were at the end of last semester by the end of the year.”