Though Waltham has not identified cases of the Omicron variant, it is only a matter of time before cases are reported. This board urges all eligible members of the Brandeis community to get vaccinated or receive the booster shot. 

The first case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant was confirmed in Massachusetts on Dec. 4. The variant, first identified in South Africa on  Nov. 24, was classified as a Variant of Concern by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26 . The first case in the United States was reported in California on Dec. 1. Since then, multiple   states  — including Hawaii, New York and Colorado — have reported cases of the new variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a  statement on Dec. 1, emphasizing “the importance of vaccination, boosters, and   general prevention strategies needed to protect against COVID-19.” As of Dec. 1, boosters are recommended for everyone over the age of 18. BioNTech, Moderna Inc. and the University of Oxford stated that new boosters would likely need to be developed to guarantee immunity against the Omicron variant, but that current vaccines should provide protection against severe forms of the disease. Until more data is available we urge readers to remain calm and be critical of unverified information — very little is known about the variant as of yet. 

Brandeis Human Resources is hosting several COVID-19 booster shot clinics on campus on Dec. 8, 9 and 21 in the Hassenfeld Conference Center. All students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the broader Waltham community, can   sign up to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna booster.  Walgreens and  CVS are also offering booster shots to anyone over the age of 18 who has already completed their vaccination series. While this board recognizes that individuals might be discouraged from getting the booster during finals, it is essential that we take the necessary precautions to protect at-risk members of our community as soon as possible. For information on how to manage booster side effects, visit the CDC  website .  

Receiving the booster shot and maintaining other public health precautions are especially crucial during the holiday season, which is marked by high rates of travel across the country and abroad. Given that much remains unknown about the transmissibility and severity of the Omicron variant, this board would like to remind members of the community who are leaving campus over winter break to social distance and remain masked during travel regardless of vaccination status. Even when not on campus, it is our responsibility to remain vigilant and ensure a safe return for the spring semester. 

Lastly, this board would like to acknowledge the feelings of disappointment and desperation many must be overwhelmed with as we enter a new phase of the pandemic. As new information about Omicron emerges, we would like to remind everyone to take care of themselves and avoid getting consumed by claims made on social media, especially as it pertains to our return to campus in the spring. We must be patient and trust that the University will do what is best for the entire community.