As of Dec. 21, almost 150 omicron cases have been identified in Dane County — a jump from the initial three cases identified Dec. 16, five days ago, Public Health Madison and Dane County said in a recent press release.
PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said all residents need to take necessary precautions as the holiday season approaches to prevent “severe outcomes” and preserve hospital capacity.
PHMDC said they expect the number of omicron cases to continue increasing rapidly as more cases are sequenced.
“We’ve seen omicron spread rapidly in other countries and states, so this isn’t a surprise,” Heinrich said.
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A “large portion” of omicron cases have been identified on the University of Wisconsin campus, PHMDC spokesperson Sarah Mattes said in an email statement to The Badger Herald. Cases are, however, rapidly being identified across the United States, Mattes said.
The press release comes after PHMDC issued a new order Monday, Dec. 20 extending the mask mandate till Feb. 1, 2022. The mandate will require people aged two and older to wear face coverings in most indoor spaces and in public when other people are present.
Currently, omicron comprises over 73% of new cases and is the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the U.S.
PHMDC recommends keeping gatherings short and small and getting tested beforehand. For people with mild symptoms such as a runny nose, headache, fatigue or cough, PHMDC encourages staying home and taking extra precautions when gathering with people who are aged 65 or older, immunocompromised or have chronic health conditions.
“While it is too late to receive the full effects of the vaccine or booster before Christmas, getting boosted or vaccinated now will give you some protection and will be vital as omicron spreads rapidly,” the press release stated.
For UW students who have COVID-19 symptoms and in-person finals, some professors have provided the option of a make-up exam in January.
In an email to all UW students, the Office of the Chancellor said campus leaders are monitoring the situation and will provide updates soon.
The UW campus has seen a recent spike in positive COVID-19 test results. As of Dec. 20, the seven-day average for positive tests in the student population is 39, the highest it has been since the start of the fall semester, according to the UW COVID-19 Dashboard.
At the time this article was published, there were no appointments available for the four campus testing locations for the next three days. All UW testing sites will be closed Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.
Appointments for campus testing sites were in the process of filling up before today’s message, according to UW spokesperson John Lucas.
“We’d note that any number is constantly changing, not only on campus but also in the county — and likely represents only a fraction of the cases.” Lucas said. “We can assume that as testing continues, we will see more omicron presence on and off campus.”
Note: This story was updated Dec. 21, 4:47 p.m. to include a statement from John Lucas.