Is Hampton prepared for Omicron?

Christian Thomas | Script Photojournalist

Photo credit: Christian Thomas

Hampton University resumed in-person learning on Jan. 10, after starting the spring semester remotely two weeks prior due to the pandemic and new Omicron variant.

In an email sent to students in early January, Hampton shared its plans to start the second semester virtually due to the Omicron variant. This followed a string of mid-break announcements informing students of mandatory COVID-19 booster vaccines and a change to the on-campus COVID-19 testing site. 

These changes were made to ensure that Hampton University remains COVID-19 free. However, some wonder if Hampton is prepared for the Omicron variant with all of these preparations.

Upon return, students had mixed opinions on how the university handled returning students.

Ayan Harris, a first-year Journalism major, believes Hampton’s decision to go online the first two weeks was a good idea. However, Raymond Beasley, a first-year journalism major, thought Hampton’s decision was rather sudden and unorganized.

“I feel like Hampton’s response wasn’t all the way complete. Almost no one knew what to do,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I could speak for anyone who attends Hampton and the student’s parents when I say we were all confused a bit and frustrated with the specific guidelines while classes in person were being delayed.”

Beasley says he even had to switch his flights coming back to school because of the last-minute changes.

The Omicron variant threw another curveball into what was already a confusing situation. With this new variant’s higher rate of transmission coupled with the previous variant still looming, administration has had its hands full when it comes to tackling this situation. 

Dr. Penn-Marshall, the Vice President of Research at Hampton University, is one of the many administrators monitoring the Omicron variant. She says she knows Hampton is prepared. 

“I can say that we are prepared because I have the pleasure of working with dedicated staff, who are members of my team, who in addition to their normal duties are committed to ensuring that the entire HU community is tested monthly,” she said. “I reviewed the positivity reports and while the Omicron variant caused a bit of a spike when our HU family members initially returned from the holiday break, the number of persons who tested positive is still extremely low.”

Dr. Penn-Marshall said because of a donation from the Thermo Fisher Scientific JUST Project and our molecular laboratory manager, Hampton now can provide PCR testing for staff and students to prevent a campus-wide outbreak. 

Dr. Penn-Marshall added that mass testing would not be possible without the faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students who help volunteer. She also thanks the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dominion Energy, and the university for providing financial support.

“COVID-19 testing is expensive. The Hampton University community once again demonstrates their character by sharing their time, energy and talents, and I am grateful,” she said.

Throughout the pandemic, Hampton University has remained one of the few places in Virginia to contain the spread of COVID-19. And to keep it that way, Hampton continues to encourage its students to wear their masks and to remain socially distanced.

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