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Published January 15, 2022
Masks that provide optimal protection against the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant will be distributed around the University of Wyoming campus when spring semester classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 18.
For students, KN-95 masks will distributed as available at the Classroom Building, the Michael B. Enzi STEM Facility, the Wyoming Union, and the Washakie Center student services and information desks. Surgical mask dispenser and hand sanitizer stands will continue to be available at all buildings.
For faculty and staff members, a department representative can obtain COVID-19 supplies from the Crane-Hill Cafeteria’s north loading dock on any Monday from 10 a.m.-noon. There will also be a last-minute back-to-school time Jan. 18 from 10 a.m.-noon.
UW requires masks in most indoor spaces through at least Feb. 16.
“We are all aware that Omicron is here and very contagious. While many people experience mild symptoms, that is not the case for all people, and many within the UW community live with people who are at high risk or are at high risk themselves,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “Probably the most important thing we can do right now to protect those people -- and to avoid quarantine and isolation for many of us -- is to wear better masks. Cloth masks only block about 50 percent or less of both outgoing and incoming viral particles. So, while any mask is better than none, we encourage our students and employees to pick up the higher-quality masks and use them.”
While UW is working to provide KN-95 masks -- which reduce the risk of infection by at least 10 times compared with most cloth masks -- they are relatively easy to buy online and are fairly inexpensive, along with N-95 and KF-94 masks. All of these masks are designed for single use, but experts say they can probably be used several times, although it’s a good idea to let them sit for a few days between uses.
For those who don’t have access to these higher-quality masks, the surgical masks that UW also has made available become more effective if they’re worn under cloth masks.
Under UW policy, masks are required in UW buildings where 6-foot social distancing isn’t possible. Exceptions to the indoor mask requirement are voluntary public events such as athletics and music, theater and dance performances; voluntary social events; and private, by-invitation events that involve rental and/or use of UW spaces on campus. Employees and students who have legitimate medical reasons to not wear masks can seek exceptions.
An additional exception is for patrons of Half Acre Recreation and Wellness Center when participating in recreational activities, sports or fitness or when a spectator at a voluntary public recreational event. Half Acre patrons are still required to wear masks when entering and exiting the building, at all customer service desks and in meeting rooms.
As of Thursday, there were 55 active cases of COVID-19 among the UW community -- 31 students off campus, seven students on campus and 17 employees.
Under the Laramie campus testing program that resumes Jan. 18, a weekly random sample of 3 percent of the UW community will receive emails directing them to be tested. This diagnostic testing takes place at the Crane-Hill Dining Center. Voluntary testing is available as well; information is available on UW’s COVID-19 Testing Resources webpage.
Employees and students can opt out of random-sample testing if they will not be on campus for the week; have been diagnosed with COVID within the last 90 days; or are sick or in quarantine.
COVID-19 vaccines, which are widely available for free in the community, have been proven to be highly effective and safe. Booster shots also are available for those who were vaccinated earlier and have been shown to be effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization, even with the Omicron variant.
UW students and employees can receive COVID-19 vaccines and boosters at several locations in Laramie. They include: Walmart, Walgreens, Pole Mountain Pharmacy, Ridley’s, Stitches Acute Care, Laramie Pediatrics, Albany Community Health Clinic, Ivinson Medical Group, the Downtown Clinic and Family Physicians of Laramie. Vaccines also may soon be available at UW’s Student Health Service.
While vaccinations are not required for most UW students and employees -- instead, they’re strongly encouraged -- students and employees must report their vaccinations once they’ve received them. This allows the university to track overall vaccination numbers. The information is not being used for any other purpose, except to enter those who’ve reported their vaccinations into drawings for prizes. The university’s privacy protocols are being followed.
Two UW students who have reported being vaccinated for COVID-19 to the Student Health Service patient portal each will win up to $4,500 in tuition and fees for the spring semester in upcoming drawings. The first is scheduled the week of Jan. 18, the second the week of Feb. 21.
The winning names will be drawn from the total pool of students who’ve submitted proof of complete vaccination to the patient portal. Students who’ve already reported to the portal are discouraged from doing so again, as it creates more work for the Student Health Service staff and doesn’t increase the chances of winning a prize. However, students are strongly encouraged to report any booster doses they receive to ensure accuracy of their vaccination record on file at Student Health.
In addition to the grand prizes for tuition and fees, students reporting vaccination will have a chance to win a dinner with President Ed Seidel and his partner, Gabrielle Allen; dinner with Provost and Executive Vice President Kevin Carman and Associated Students of UW President Hunter Swilling; and a Dining Dollars card from UW Dining Services, valued at $100.
To upload documentation to the Student Health Service patient portal, take a photo of your vaccination document and upload the picture here: http://patientportal.uwyo.edu, using your regular UW user ID and password. This is the same portal where students report their mandatory vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella. Alternatively, students can report their vaccinations by emailing photos of their vaccination documents to Student Health at email@example.com.
For employees, a quick reference guide has been created to help report vaccinations within UW’s HCM.
UW continues to follow Wyoming Department of Health guidance when it comes to quarantine,
isolation and staying home when sick. Voluntary testing also is encouraged; those
testing positive in home tests must report the results to UW’s
COVID Hub at (307) 766-COVD (2683) or COVID19@uwyo.edu.
Those who’ve received and reported booster shots can avoid quarantine if exposed to people infected with COVID-19.
For those who test positive for COVID-19 -- regardless of vaccination status -- the isolation requirements are the same, under Centers for Disease Control and Wyoming Department of Health guidance:
-- Stay home for five days.
-- If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after five days, you can leave your house.
-- Continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
-- If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.
For those exposed to people with COVID-19, quarantine requirements differ depending on vaccination status.
For those exposed who’ve reported receiving boosters; reported completing the primary series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last six months; or reported completing the primary series of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last two months, the requirements are:
-- Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
-- Test on day five, if possible.
-- If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.
For those exposed who are unvaccinated; completed the primary series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over six months ago and are not boosted; or completed the primary series of Johnson & Johnson over two months ago and are not boosted, the requirements are:
-- Stay home for five days. After that, continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
-- If you can’t quarantine, wear a mask for 10 days.
-- Test on day five if possible.
-- If you develop symptoms, get a test and stay home.
More information about UW’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available.