Omicron variant spreads throughout the U.S.


Kyle Etzel

Bookstore employees process year-end totals Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Washburn is slated to continue with in-person lectures in spring despite burgeoning omicron cases.

The omicron variant has been identified in at least nine people in Kansas since the first case was reported by Kansas Department of Health and Environment Dec.16, 2021.

None so far are located in Shawnee County.

Director of Student Health, Tiffany McManis, DNP, APRN, BC, has encountered no “suspicious circumstances” in the clinic which would prompt her to collect a sample for a KDHE lab in Lenexa. There are a couple reasons for this.

“It can multiply seventy times quicker in the airway, but then it’s ten times slower in the lung tissue,” McManis said. “So that’s why a lot of people who are getting omicron might not be getting as sick as they were with the delta.”

Omicron is still a CDC-designated “variant of concern” which can cause COVID-19 and is still preventable, or preemptively mitigated, with a vaccine.

Janet Stanek, Acting Secretary of KDHE, said in the statement posted online last Thursday, “The detection of the variant does not come as a surprise. This virus is highly infectious and transmittable. We must do our part to protect ourselves and those around us by using the tools available to us,” said Janet Stanek, Acting Secretary of KDHE, in the statement posted online last Thursday

KDHE labs process about 400 tests a week. People testing positive for coronavirus who are exhibiting mild to no symptoms aren’t sampled, so omicron is likely more present than statistics show.

“This is what viruses do, they mutate and replicate themselves to survive,” McManis said. “Since we had enough people with natural immunity and enough people with immunity from the vaccine, it was forced to mutate because the virus wants to live. It doesn’t want us to kill it. So it finds a way.”

In the meantime, since last reported Nov. 11, the Student Health clinic in Morgan 140 has administered 237 more doses to 138 patients, still with zero unexpected reactions all year. The clinic saw 33% less people get vaccinations in December than the clinic’s monthly average.

It’s a good sign of vaccinated Ichabods, as KDHE also reports a positive drop in the number of COVID cases and patients in Kansas hospitals statewide. Regardless, Washburn Student Health and other medical workers are not laying off.

“It’s really important to keep up those efforts. COVID is probably here to stay in some form or fashion,” McManis said. “Just like we get an annual flu shot, we’ll probably get an annual COVID shot. My hope is that the two will be combined into one shot.”

Edited by Ellie Walker and Katrina Johnson