The omicron variant effects worldwide and nearby

A man receives a COVID-19 test at the BYU Health Center. COVID-19 tests are able to detect the omicron strain. (Preston Crawley)

Less than a week ago, omicron, the latest strain of COVID-19, was officially classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

According to the WHO website, there is little known information about the new strain. Data on transmissibility, the severity of the disease and side effects, and the effectiveness of vaccines is “not yet clear.” The website does say, however, that “all variants” of the virus “can cause severe disease or death.” 

The discovery of omicron has led to some worldwide panic as countries close borders, reinstate mask mandates and call for increased vaccination rates.

As reported in an official White House news release, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor, said it will take approximately two more weeks before any aspects on the strain can be confirmed. 

Effects of omicron on the BYU community are yet to be determined. As of early November, 81% of students and 84% of faculty and staff had received at least one of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to BYU’s COVID-19 update website.

Aside from the possible return to online classes, another aspect of BYU that could be drastically effected by the new strain would be study abroad programs.

Lynn Elliot, the director of BYU International Study Programs, said he is waiting for more information to make any final decisions on the fate of study abroad programs for spring and summer terms.

“We’re taking a wait and see approach. We have time to make adjustments if we need to, (but) the plan is that we’re going to move forward as if we can deal with whatever challenges come,” Elliot said.

If omicron were to become a bigger concern later in the Winter 2022 semester, Elliot said the programs would adhere to local laws concerning COVID-19 regulations such as mask mandates and quarantines.

Further COVID-19 related guidelines for study abroad programs can be found on the Kennedy Center website’s FAQ.

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