Dear Campus Community,
We are facing another unsettling development in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Omicron variant” of the SARS-CoV-2 virus identified recently in South Africa appears to be spreading, causing growing concerns about its infectivity and possible resistance to the current vaccines.
At this point, there is still much we don’t know about this variant, but I want to assure you that the University of Houston leadership is closely monitoring this situation, and we are committed to taking whatever steps are recommended to maintain a safe and secure campus.
To date, no cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in Texas, but public health officials are apprehensive that it is only a matter of time before the variant may be present here. We are hopeful that within the next two to three weeks there will be useful information about this variant’s infectivity and possible susceptibility to current vaccines.
The manufacturers of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 are already working on the development of new vaccines that would provide specific protection against infection from the Omicron variant, if necessary; however it would likely be two to three months before such a vaccine is available.
In the meantime, we need to continue taking appropriate precautions to prevent a possible surge in COVID-19 infections. Vaccination remains the leading prevention strategy to protect yourself, including a booster immunization for all individuals 18 and older. In addition, UH encourages wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing and observing good hand washing and respiratory hygiene habits.
For those who have not been fully vaccinated, we suggest undergoing periodic COVID-19 testing to check for asymptomatic infection that might be transmitted to others who may be susceptible to the infection, such as individuals who have not been vaccinated, or vaccinated individuals who have weakened immune systems.
Remember: we have free COVID-19 testing readily available by appointment at the Curative kiosk in front of the UH Student Center South. Please refer to our COVID-19 website on a regular basis for updated information about UH’s continuing response to the pandemic.
Thus far, we have been fortunate to have kept our campus community relatively healthy during this pandemic, but it is crucial that we face this possible new danger with renewed diligence and dedication. Thank you for your continuing resilience and taking care to keep yourself and those around you safe.
Stephen J. Spann, M.D., M.B.A.
Founding Dean, College of Medicine
Vice-President for Medical Affairs
Humana Endowed Dean's Chair in Medicine
Phone (713) 743-0875