Category: Messages to the Community

Title: Omicron Variant Detected in the Georgetown University Community

Date Published: December 13, 2021

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community,

Last evening, DC Health announced the first four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the District of Columbia. We write today to inform you that one of these cases is a Georgetown community member who has not been on campus since before Thanksgiving other than to complete a COVID-19 test.

The individual is fully vaccinated, asymptomatic and had recently returned from domestic travel. Testing was conducted by Georgetown University’s COVID-19 testing lab, and the genomic sequencing confirming the Omicron variant was conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Vaccine Research Center. We are coordinating closely with DC Health on this case and will do the same for any future cases.

At this time, there is no indication that transmission occurred on our campus. Georgetown’s weekly positivity rate still remains below 1%, even as we conducted more than 15,000 tests of students, faculty and staff in the weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday. Any Georgetown community members who test positive for COVID-19, including the Omicron variant, will continue to be notified by our contact tracing team and given instructions for isolation.

Cases of new variants may be detected earlier in university settings due to enhanced access to genomic sequencing and a high volume of on-campus testing. We have partnered with DC Health to review positive test results on our campuses since the beginning of the pandemic and will continue to do so. We will communicate any updated public health guidance specific to our campuses, if necessary.

Omicron has now been identified in more than half of U.S. states. Public health guidelines for isolation and quarantine for those who are infected with the Omicron variant and their close contacts remain the same as for other variants. The best protection remains to get vaccinated, get a booster shot and follow all public health measures, including wearing a mask and avoiding large crowds.

Please take the steps below to protect yourself, your family and friends and our Georgetown community:

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot: Students, faculty and staff have several opportunities to get a booster shot on the Main Campus and at the Law Center this week. We strongly encourage all members of our community to get a booster shot as soon as they are eligible (i.e., 2 months after Johnson & Johnson vaccination, or 6 months after the second dose of the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or other WHO-approved vaccine). Evidence available at this time suggests that vaccines continue to be very effective in preventing severe disease and death due to COVID-19 and all its variants, including Omicron, and that booster shots can further enhance protection. Please visit Vaccines.gov to find the closest vaccination site to you and upload documentation of your booster shot through the GU360 mobile app or website. Staff may use COVID-19 Vaccination Paid Time Off for their booster shot appointment and recovery.
  • Wear a mask indoors: Wearing a mask provides an added layer of protection and continues to be required in all indoor public spaces on campus. We strongly recommend wearing the highest-grade mask available, including a surgical-style mask or other medical-style mask, or double-masking (i.e., cloth mask on top of a surgical-style mask). We do not recommend wearing a cloth mask alone.
  • Stay home if you have symptoms: If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, please remain in your residence, do not go to class, work or other events on campus, and report your symptoms to the Public Health team by completing the COVID-19 Symptom Check-In survey via the GU360 mobile app or website.

As a reminder, Georgetown required all community members who returned to campus after Thanksgiving break to get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they traveled or remained in the local area. In addition to this return-to-campus testing, Georgetown conducts randomized asymptomatic testing each week, tests symptomatic individuals and makes free on-demand COVID-19 testing available to all students, faculty and staff.

You can learn more about Georgetown’s rigorous, multi-layered public health approach at our COVID-19 Resource Center. All students, faculty and staff on campus are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless Georgetown has granted a medical or religious exemption (which requires COVID-19 testing twice weekly). We have also maintained a policy requiring all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors in university-owned or operated buildings, except when eating or drinking, when alone in a private office or when in their personal residence.

Our Public Health team is available to answer questions at covidcarenavigator@georgetown.edu. We also urge all community members to use the Every Hoya Cares website to connect with mental health and well-being resources should you need them.

Sincerely,

Ranit Mishori, M.D., MHS, FAAFP
Professor of Family Medicine, Vice President and Chief Public Health Officer