University reports 202 cases during the final week of the semester
Increase comes as the Omicron variant spreads through the district
American University reported 202 cases of COVID-19 over the last week as students wrapped up the final week of the fall semester.
Officials will continue assessing public health conditions in preparation for an in-person spring semester, President Sylvia Burwell wrote in an email to the AU community Monday.
The jump in testing and cases comes as the Omicron variant of the virus spreads throughout the United States and students leave campus for winter break. Burwell expects more information about the variant and how to proceed over the next three weeks, she wrote.
“Our comprehensive testing and contact tracing protocols, which are based on risk factors and community surveillance, enable us to identify cases as early as possible and quickly isolate individuals who test positive in order to help limit the spread,” Burwell wrote. “This risk-based testing approach leads us to expect more positive results as a percentage of those tested than a random sample. With the District and many surrounding communities reporting record daily numbers of cases, it is unsurprising that we are seeing an increase.”
This week’s data includes an average of 29 cases per day over the last week, AU reported, as well as an increase in testing. AU administered 3,297 tests last week, an increase of about 30 percent from the previous week, Burwell wrote.
The number of cases among the AU community has steadily increased in recent weeks, according to University data. Burwell encouraged students to report positive tests to the AU Forward portal, even when away from campus for break, and recommended students get their vaccine booster shot if eligible.
Both George Washington and Georgetown Universities detected the Omicron variant in testing last week, and the former suspended all in-person events and moved final exams online.
The growing number of Omicron variant cases in the district makes it likely some of AU’s cases are the variant, said Elizabeth Deal, the University’s assistant vice president for community and internal communication.
Still, Bowser reported yesterday that less than one percent of the district’s COVID-19 cases are the Omicron variant.
As cases rise across the district, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also announced that the district’s mask mandate was reinstated Tuesday and will be in effect until at least Jan. 31. On Dec. 17, the district reported 844 positive COVID-19 cases from the previous day, which is a record for single day cases.
“I think we are all tired of it – I am tired of it, too – but we have to respond to what’s happening in our city and what’s happening in our nation,” Bowser said at a press conference Monday.
The University’s COVID-19 testing center is closed for winter break until Jan. 3. A number of testing sites are available around the district, including at the Tenley-Friendship Library. Proof of D.C. residency is required for take-home tests, Bowser announced.
“We will provide updates about specific health and safety protocols for the in-person spring semester during the week of January 3,” Burwell wrote. “Should any time-sensitive updates be needed, we will communicate with the community immediately. Please monitor your AU email, the COVID-19 Resources webpage, and our social media channels during the break to ensure you have the latest information.”
Clare Mulroy and Nina Heller contributed to the reporting of this story.