COVID-19 Update: Reducing Risk During Spring Semester

Dr. Emilio Carranco, Chief Medical Officer | January 25, 2022

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

As we prepare to begin in-person instruction, I want to update you on the latest developments regarding COVID-19 and provide guidance on how to effectively reduce your risk of infection.

Omicron Highly Transmissible but Not as Severe

As in many other parts of the country, Texas continues to experience high transmission levels of COVID-19.  While Omicron is highly transmissible, it tends to result in milder illness than previous strains of the virus.  However, those who are unvaccinated suffer more severe illness and much higher hospitalization rates.  

Isolating for Five Days Critical

Persons who develop symptoms of Omicron infection such as cough, runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, fatigue, and headache should isolate at home and get a COVID-19 Test  as soon as possible.  If positive for COVID-19, report to Bobcat Trace.  You will get an e-mail with specific information about your isolation period and when you may return to class or work.  You may share the e-mail with professors or supervisors to document your need to stay at home.

Current CDC Guidelines recommend a five-day isolation period.  Studies show that the period of highest infectivity begins 1 day before symptoms start and continues for another 2-3 days thereafter.  So, a five-day isolation period will cover the period of highest infectivity.  It is very important that infected persons not return to class or work before completing the 5-day isolation period.  Wearing a face mask for another 5 days reduces the risk of any residual contagiousness.

Booster Vaccine Needed to Protect Against Omicron

Recent studies from Kaiser Permanente and the United Kingdom clearly show that a booster is necessary for the best protection against infection and hospitalization due to Omicron.  When a booster was added to a primary series of Pfizer or Moderna, vaccine effectiveness against infection increased from 30% to 62% and vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization increased from 72% to 88%.

Testing to Prevent Spread

When in-person classes begin next week, it is important to reduce the risk of having infected persons on campus.  Testing for COVID-19 before returning to campus will help identify those who are infected and need to isolate. 

Use Available Tools to Stay Safe

While COVID-19 will continue to be a challenge, we have the tools we need to stay safe in the classroom and at work:  

  • Vaccinate and get a booster as soon as eligible
  • Wear a high-quality mask while inside university buildings
  • Get a COVID-19 Test when symptoms develop and after any high-risk activities  
  • Report an infection to Bobcat Trace
  • Follow CDC guidance on isolation and quarantine

We are looking forward to having students back on campus.  If we all work together and use the tools that are available to us, we can move on with our lives despite the pandemic.  So, LET’S VACCINATE, MASK, AND TEST TO STAY SAFE!

Dr. Emilio Carranco
Chief Medical Officer
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Director, Student Health Center