UH monitors COVID-19 data amid omicron, plans for regular opening in spring semester
In light of the recent uptick in cases due to the more contagious omicron COVID-19 variant, universities across Texas are at an impasse with the spring semester rapidly approaching.
Harvard was one of the first universities to announce going virtual for a portion of their spring term, meanwhile Texas colleges such as the University of Texas are trying to mitigate the spread of the virus with delays and testing requests.
UH is still monitoring the situation in the Houston area, according to UH spokesperson Shawn Lindsey.
“Keeping our campus safe is a shared responsibility,” Lindsey said. “Vaccination remains the leading prevention strategy to protect yourself and those around you, including a booster immunization. Face coverings have also been helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and the University strongly encourages face coverings.”
The University still plans to move forward with offerings of online, face-to-face and hybrid course options for students as it did in the fall semester, despite the rapid spread of omicron in the Houston area.
Averaging about 23 cases daily in the last week, some students are left concerned with what the spring semester might bring.
“The University of Houston is handling this a bit off,” said industrial engineering senior Ernesto Colchado. “Cases are clearly sky rocketing, meanwhile there are a lack of sites (around Houston) to get tested for the virus.”
Other students are also concerned about the safety of others, despite having maximum protection from omicron with the vaccine.
“I think I would feel as safe as I can, knowing that I took the necessary precautions that I needed to take to keep myself safe,” said communication sciences and disorders senior Kavya Nadella. “However I cannot say that goes for everyone that I will be in my classes with or around campus with. Therefore, no I cannot say I feel 100 percent safe going back to in person classes.”
Although holding the spring semester virtually can reduce COVID-19’s transmission, some students are worried about the quality of their courses not being as fulfilling as they would be in person.
“I am in the last two most pivotal classes of my major, and I do feel that having an online mode for these classes will heavily impact the level of understanding and application I gain from the class,” Nadella said. “But at the end of the day, I know I can do my best knowing that I’m safe at home rather than having the anxiety of being on campus around others in class.”
Others are more confident with how the University and students will adapt to the potential change in modalities.
“I am not concerned should there be a change,” Colchado said. “I believe we have all very well adapted to the situation and are capable of going through with online learning as we have done in the past. Whether it’s a few weeks online or a semester long, academic resources have definitely improved and are very much accessible to all of us.”
Lindsey said the University encourages students to wear face coverings to further reduce the spread of the virus, and weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals.
UH offers free PCR COVID-19 testing at the Curative kiosk in front of Student Center South by appointment, available to members of the UH community with their Cougar Card.
“UH protocols and guidance are continually reviewed and updated to account for the latest changes and recommendations from the CDC,” Lindsey said.