UW to relax some COVID protocols

LARAMIE — In light of developments with the omicron variant of COVID-19, the University of Wyoming has announced second-semester changes to quarantine rules and pandemic testing requirements for students and staff.

The university originally planned to require mass testing Jan. 12-16, but made it optional because of a high rate COVID-19 transmission in Laramie. More than 10,000 UW students and staff were tested ahead of the first semester of classes in August.

“There could be some good for people testing positive and taking action, but the risk would outweigh the benefit that would have been there,” said UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin.

The change is meant to minimize the number of people concentrated in an area and potentially spread the virus, Baldwin said. About 10,000 people would have visited the testing site over just a few days, which would increase exposure risk of the highly contagious omicron variant.

Now optional, testing at UW will be done in pools of four, meaning everyone who has a sample in a pool that tests positive would have to take a confirmatory test. Baldwin said that because there are so many people testing positive for COVID-19 now, an inefficient number of people would need the second test.

As of Wednesday, the university reported 69 active COVID-19 cases among students and employees.

Throughout the fall semester, the campus had a positive test rate ranging from 0.52% to 3.55%. There have been 3,035 cases total on campus since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.

At the start of the fall 2021 semester, the University required everyone to get tested over the course of a few days and did random required testing of 3% of the UW population each week.

The routine random testing will continue in the new semester, which begins Jan. 18.

With the start of the spring semester, students and staff who report having a booster vaccine will not have to quarantine after an exposure to the virus as long as they are asymptomatic. They are still advised to wear a mask for 10 days and get tested on the fifth day after exposure.

Those who haven’t received a booster shot should quarantine for five days after an exposure. Anyone who tests positive for the virus must quarantine for at least five days, regardless of vaccination status.

At least 3,808 students and 42.2% of students attending campus in-person have reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Other surveys report vaccination rates in the 60% range.

“As a whole country, we’re in a transition period here with COVID-19 that’s certainly reflected here on campus as well,” Baldwin said. “It’s clear we’re not going to eradicate COVID-19 and omicron, (and it) appears it’s not the threat that other versions of COVID-19 were.”

Masks are still required to be worn indoors on campus at least through Feb. 16, Baldwin said. The mask mandate does not apply to voluntary activities like sporting events.