No changes to NDSU’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies as omicron variant surges

The number of covid hospitalizations hit a record for the U.S. on Monday, but concern for the omicron variant still remains low.

Before North Dakota State University’s start of the semester, President Dean Brusciani announced that the university will not be making any significant changes to their current COVID-19 restrictions amid a noticeable surge in positive cases.

“There has been a significant national increase in COVID cases from the start of semester break till now,” Brusciani said. “This spike is attributable to the omicron variant and its increased transmissibility.”

In North Dakota, there are currently 4,546 active positives across the state and a positivity rate of 14.92% as of Jan. 11, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. Cass county is leading in the amount of active positive cases with 1,575 recorded cases.

“We have been monitoring the situation and participating in system-wide discussion,” said Bresuciani. “The local conditions, while concerning, do not indicate that we will need to make significant modifications to our current COVID mitigation strategies. However, we need to remain vigilant and each do our part to reduce the spread.”

As of Dec. 20, omicron has been detected in most states and territories and is rapidly increasing the proportion of COVID-19 cases it is causing, according to the CDC.

The New York Times’ latest map and COVID-19 case count for the U.S. recorded 1,433,977 cases on Jan. 10, and a new daily average of 738,031 coronavirus cases. The CDC also indicates that 98.3% of this week’s positive cases detected the omicron variant.

“It appears that a spike is beginning to occur in North Dakota, but the magnitude of the increase remains unclear. However, the good news is that omicron, while more contagious, appears to result in milder illness,” Brusciani said.

Luckily, the new omicron variant is showing less severity among people who contract it. However, that doesn’t mean hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients.

Because of the high number of cases, hospitals across the U.S. are postponing cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to a Reuters report. On Monday, the U.S. set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations with 132,646 people hospitalized.

Reuters writes, “Data from the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services shows that over 82% of ICU beds nationwide are currently in use as of Thursday with over 27% in use for COVID-19 cases.”

The CDC recorded a new daily average of 1,656 deaths in the U.S. on Jan. 10, up from a daily average of 1,240 deaths recorded on Jan. 1.

Vaccinations are strongly recommended by the CDC and NDSU even if it’s someone’s first shot or their booster. Although breakthrough cases are happening, it does it’s job of creating milder symptoms to keep people out of the hospital.

Certain treatments for COVID-19 have also been passed by the FDA to keep people out of the hospitals.

The FDA has approved the antiviral drug Veklury for adults and certain pediatric patients with COVID-19 who are sick enough to need hospitalization, according to the FDA’s website. They also issued Emergency Use Authorizations for several monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made molecules that act as substitute antibodies. They can help a person’s immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the virus, making it more difficult for the virus to reproduce and cause harm.

NDSU encourages its community to prevent spreading as much as possible. To help ensure this, they will continue with their mask requirements in classrooms.

They also encourage students to stay home if ill or feeling symptoms, to get tested regularly for free at NDSU’s Student Health Service and to receive the vaccine if eligible.

Brusciani reported that 7,052 students received the $100 vaccine incentive — that’s 60% of NDSU’s in-person student population.

According to CNBC, experts say that COVID-19 will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime in 2022 and become “endemic,” eventually fading in severity and folding into the backdrop of regular, everyday life.

“With COVID still a significant threat and our recent cold temperatures and snow, I understand it is easy to not feel enthusiastic about the start of school, ” said Brusciani. “ However, this COVID spike will pass, and the snow will melt. Soon enough, spring will arrive, and with it, the hope of finally moving past this pandemic forever. Until then, let’s work together to make this a great semester.”

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