New COVID-19 Variant, Vaccines and Testing

To the Case Western Reserve Community:

Yet again, COVID-19 has upended pandemic expectations. 

After U.S. air travel Wednesday hit its highest passenger count yet since March 2020, the Thanksgiving holiday brought news of another variant—quite possibly the most transmissible version yet.

While federal health officials consistently observed that it is too early to tell whether the omicron variant’s effects are more severe, they emphasized that vaccines and boosters continue to be critical protective measures.

In this concerning context, we want to remind the campus community that anyone 18 or older is eligible for booster vaccinations, and those 5 and older are eligible for initial vaccinations. 

Boosters—and initial vaccinations—resume tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 29). To schedule an appointment, please visit the appointment page on the university’s COVID-19 vaccine website. For information about Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance regarding booster options, please visit our campus FAQ page.

Officials and experts also have emphasized the importance of COVID-19 testing in reducing transmission risks. All members of the campus community can take saliva-based PCR COVID-19 tests at the Robbins building Monday through Friday (Nov. 29-Dec. 3) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Undergraduates living on campus also have the option to receive rapid-antigen COVID-19 tests in Robbins.

For students, faculty, and staff primarily in Samson Pavilion this week, the university is making PCR saliva kits available for pickup starting at noon on Monday (Nov. 29) and continuing through 3 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 1). They are being kept at the security desk at Samson’s main entrance (i.e., the one facing west, opposite the JJ Garage). These tests must be returned to the same location no later than 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Please remember these saliva-based PCR tests require that you do not eat, drink (even water), chew, smoke or vape at least 30 minutes before either of these tests. In addition, you should not come for testing if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Meanwhile, undergraduates living on campus are required to take one COVID-19 test in each of the next two weeks (i.e., Nov. 29-Dec. 3 and Dec. 6-10). These rapid antigen tests are available from Wade and Fribley commons from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday

Finally, last week the CDC issued a health advisory in response to significant increases in flu cases among young adults in college and university settings. Federal officials strongly encourage everyone eligible to get a flu shot, and are especially emphasizing its importance to this group. Walk-in flu shots are available this week at Wade and Fribley commons during the hours listed above—and can be received at the same time as COVID-19 tests. In addition, those scheduling COVID-19 vaccine doses can receive their flu vaccines at the same time. To schedule a flu vaccine appointment, please visit myhealthconnect.case.edu.

We wish all of you a safe and healthy return to campus this week.

Sara Lee, MD
Executive Director, University Health and Counseling Services

Megan Koeth
Executive Director, Office of Resiliency