OMICRON surges at USD, CDC guidelines change
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OMICRON surges at USD, CDC guidelines change

As COVID-19 resurges through the community, USD is continuing to provide testing, even amidst the test shortage. 

Testing is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Muenster University Center (MUC) in the Hoy room located in the northeast corner on the first floor.

Kevin O’Kelley, head of the USD COVID-19 Taskforce, saidUSD is experiencing a COVID surge of the OMICRON variant. There were 129 cases Jan. 17, and as of Jan. 25 there were 42 cases. The projected peak is expected to hit within the next couple weeks in the Clay County community.

“We’re looking at other locales. We anticipate a four week normal distribution curve and we’re in week one and a half of it down. In another week or so we expect we will be at the peak, so please continue to be careful,” O’Kelley said.

Fully vaccinated and boosted people are experiencing mild symptoms, O’Kelley said. Some are asymptomatic but there’s a high number of people currently infected. O’Kelley said he encourages everyone to get tested regularly. 

Test shortages are present not only across South Dakota, but across the entire United States, O’Kelley said. The USD testing center is using rapid tests for symptomatic people and saliva PCR tests for asymptomatic people.

“The new OMICRON variant is highly contagious and it does not respect the vaccine as much as previous variants did. Many of the people testing positive for COVID-19 now are fully vaccinated and boosted,” O’Kelley said. “Having said that, the vaccine does keep the illness down a bit and minimizes the effects of the illness.”

The Vermillion high school and middle school mandated masks through Jan. 23 because the school district has a 1.5% threshold of infected students and faculty, Keloland reported.

O’Kelley said the hospital reported the only hospitalizations where of unvaccinated people.

“Sanford reported that no vaccinated and boosted people are in the hospital at present. So vaccination is still a good thing,” O’Kelley said.

USD and other South Dakota public universities currently don’t have mandated precautions to combat COVID-19, including mask mandates. 

“We don’t have any mandated safety precautions because we all know how to prevent getting COVID-19,” O’Kelley said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed the length of recommended quarantine time from 10 to five days and USD is adhering to this new rule. 

The spike on the USD COVID-19 Dashboard indicates students are getting tested regularly, along with the spread of the virus, O’Kelley said. The peak is anticipated to hit the Clay County community within the next two weeks. 

“If students do test positive or need to quarantine they should reach out to housing. We have an email that’s called [email protected]. If they just email that we can set them up with meals and whatever else they need. It’s monitored pretty close to 24 hours a day,” Kate Fitzgerald, USD director of housing, said. “Every student quarantined in the residence halls gets an email from me every morning to let me know if they need anything.” 

Four free tests are available to order at The university has encouraged students to use the newly created quarantine calculator that was produced by The SD Department of Health.