COVID-19 cases have increased on campus since the return from Thanksgiving break, according to an email from University Health Center Director Spyridon Marinopoulos.
University of Maryland community members traveling to different locations during the break and attending indoor events could be the cause of the increase, he wrote. The trend reflects an increase in cases nationally.
Last week, South African scientists discovered a new COVID-19 variant, dubbed “Omicron.” Cases were recently identified in the United States. None were in Maryland. The Omicron variant has also been reported in multiple other countries.
In an interview with The Diamondback earlier this week, university President Darryll Pines said the university is being cautious and keeping a close eye on the variant.
“We’re monitoring CDC guidance and obviously the state of Maryland and Prince George’s County, and we’ll do that over the next several weeks as we come up to finals,” he said.
Marinopoulos encouraged the community to continue taking measures to reduce spreading the virus. This includes getting the COVID-19 vaccine and wearing a mask indoors, which are two requirements at the university.
Marinopoulos also recommended for individuals ages 18 or older to get their booster shot. COVID-19 booster shots are currently available across the country. Individuals can receive their COVID-19 booster shot at least six months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or at least two months after their dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“We know that a booster shot increases protection against severe illness for many COVID-19 variants,” Marinopoulos wrote.
Marinopoulos advocated for the use of KN95 masks, which are 95 percent effective at reducing the spread of the virus. They are available at the Stamp Student Union information desk.
“If you have one and are not using it, it is important to begin using it now,” Marinopoulos wrote in the email.
Marinopoulos advised those who feel sick to stay home and get tested for COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms can get tested at the health center and shouldn’t go to class or work, he wrote.
For anyone planning to travel internationally as the semester ends, Marinopoulos said to reconsider travel plans as they can put people at higher risk of getting the virus.
Once the university learns more about the Omicron variant, Marinopoulos said additional measures may need to be taken.
This story has been updated.