Illustration courtesy of the Pioneer Log Archives

Omicron variant prompts new safety protocols on campus  

Due to the new Omicron variant, Lewis & Clark held the first three weeks of the Spring 2022 semester completely online. Now, the college is back to in-person instruction and focused on navigating the highly contagious variant in different ways. 

“As of this week, all classes have returned to in-person instruction, and we return to the guidelines for accommodations and absences already in place from last semester,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Suttmeier said via email. 

According to Suttmeier, LC intends to balance their commitment to in-person education and ensuring the safest campus environment possible. 

In order to help combat the Omicron variant, LC consulted the Associated Student Body (ASB), members of faculty and the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness  about possible COVID-19 management solutions. The protocols also function to address any sub-variants that might emerge in the future.

“It’s kind of an awkward situation when we’re going from zoom to in person, and I just want to clarify that COVID will be treated as it was last semester,” Associate Dean of Students for Health and Wellness John Hancock said.

Last year, LC tested students through the effluent dorm testing and the random campus tests. 

This semester, asymptomatic students that have been exposed will be able to get a free test from the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, per Hancock. Only symptomatic students should get tested through the Health Center.

On Jan. 14, President Joe Biden announced that the federal government would be providing every household with free antigen tests. Hancock hopes that eventually, everyone will be able to procure them. According to Hancock, students who are unable to apply for the program because LC’s address is a business address can consult the college about how to access the free federal testing. 

ASB also has a fund for testing that LC does not cover. Student Resources Coordinator Orion Whitcher ’24, said that the Student Resources Committee’s funds help subsidize the test of costing that students can often be burdened with. 

In addition to these changes, the college is now requiring the use of KN95 or higher quality masks on campus. However, many students have unknowingly bought counterfeit masks, and some students may not have the financial resources to purchase large quantities of KN95 masks. 

“For people who don’t have financial resources, then all they have to do is email the COVID email account, and my staff has access to stashes of masks, and we will be sure that students get some masks and then students can re-supply when they need them,” Hancock said. 

Hancock also mentioned that if some people have concerns with masks being too small or too big for their faces, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness staff can assist them in looking for masks that fit properly. 

In terms of dining, Fields Dining Hall will be open for both in-person dining service, with proper masking etiquette, and grab-and-go dining. In-person dining will remain open, despite the ongoing Templeton Center remodel.  

Within the resident halls, there will no longer be designated COVID restrooms for residential students with COVID-19. Residents may also resume having off-campus overnight guests. 

All COVID-19 related questions and inquiries should be directed to Email covid19info@lclark.edu.

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