With the arrival of a new year, came a new variant of the COVID-19 virus. Like the Delta variant before it, the rise of the Omicron variant disrupted everyday operations of society. According to the Centers for Control and Prevention as of Wednesday, Jan. 19, over 67 million positive COVID cases have been reported in the past 30 days in the United States, and community transmission is high. The CDC also reported that about 60% of COVID-19 cases during the week of Christmas were caused by the Omicron variant.
Schools and universities especially scrambled to formulate new plans for returning to operations after the holiday break.
Some schools, like Samford University, returned to in-person operations with extra masking and testing protocols in place. Other colleges, such as Stanford University, Northwestern University and most campuses in the University of California system, decided to begin their spring semesters with remote learning, according to an NBC News article from Dec. 29, 2021.
A New York Times article from Jan. 16 stated that many universities, like Northeastern University in Boston and the University of California-Davis, have begun to discuss the possibility of shifting the way they view the pandemic – “a shift from reacting to each spike of cases as a crisis to the reality of living with it daily.” Whether this is their new outlook on the pandemic or not, most schools are encouraging the vaccine and booster shots and quarantining those who have tested positive or been exposed.
On Thursday, Jan. 13, the Republican-led Supreme Court blocked U.S. President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large private companies that was released by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Nov. 2021. The mandate was blocked in a six to three vote, as stated in a New York Times article by Jonathan Wolfe from Jan. 13.
“Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life – simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock – would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization,” the majority opinion said, according to the same New York Times article.
While Omicron continues to run rampant across the country, the Biden administration launched a website for U.S. households to order four free at-home virus test kits of which the Biden administration says each household is entitled, according to a New York Times article from Jan. 18. An article from CNN that was last updated on Jan. 19 said that the amount of COVID-19 cases has dropped in the past few days, but “experts say the country has not reached a peak across the board.”
Samford University continues to monitor the nationwide impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as well as the cases on its very own campus.