Loyola To Stick With Current COVID-19 Procedures Despite More Contagious Variant

Zack Miller | The PhoenixThe university said it plans to maintain its current guidelines as long as COVID-19 level transmission remains low.

Despite health officials detecting new COVID-19 variants in many countries, including the U.S., university officials say they won’t update guidelines. 

The XE subvariant of the COVID-19 virus, a combination of the Omicron sub-variants BA.1 and BA.2, was first identified in the U.K. Jan. 19, according to Time. Although the variant is transmissible, there isn’t enough research to confirm whether it is more contagious than other variants or determine its effectiveness against the vaccine, according to Time.

Leslie Owen | The Phoenix

Another subvariant of Omicron first detected in November, BA.2, is more transmissible than Omicron and is now the dominant strain in the U.S., according to the Associated Press (AP).

Loyola will not update its mask policy, guest policy and number of quarantine and isolation days even with the new variants surfacing because the city’s hospitalization rates remain low and most students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated and boosted, according to Wellness Center Director Joan Holden. 

“We continue to follow local and national public health guidance, and at this time, new guidance has not been released from the CDC,” Holden said. 

There’ve been 67 confirmed COVID-19 cases at Loyola between April 1 and April 14, according to the university’s testing dashboard, whereas Chicago saw 6,188 new cases within the same two weeks, according to the city’s COVID dashboard.

 Second-year supply chain management student Eileen Ralph said she doesn’t see a need to reinstate the mask requirement in areas where it’s no longer required because the majority of students are vaccinated. 

“Where we are now is fine,” Ralph said.” Classrooms might be more necessary but I am comfortable not having them on in places like Damen, residence halls.”

As of March 14, masks are no longer required in residence halls, dining halls and organization meetings among other places and events, The Phoenix reported. 

Current COVID-19 guidelines include a mask requirement in instructional and lab settings, mandatory five day quarantine for Loyola community members who test positive and COVID-19 vaccine and booster requirement among other things.

With health officials identifying more variants, Arub Sumayli — a second year engineering student — said the university should take extra care and reinstate the mask requirement in all campus buildings and events. 

“In general, I think it’s always better to be cautious,” Sumayli said. 

“Should there be an increase in community-level transmission or an increased strain on our local health care systems, Loyola reserves the right to shift COVID-19 protocols as needed and we will communicate any changes to the community,” Holden said in a statement to The Phoenix.

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