CLEMSON, S.C. (WSPA) – Cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant have been detected at Clemson University, school officials announced Monday.
Ten positive samples were detected by the on-campus lab and sent for further testing. This was confirmed over the weekend to contain the Omicron variant, school officials said.
“So we did the diagnostic test to identify the positives, and then we partnered with Premier Medical in Greenville, who did the sequencing,” said Dr. Delphine Dean, (Ron and Jane Lindsay Family Innovation Innovation) Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Clemson University.
Clemson University REDDI Lab identified the positives through diagnostics on PCR tests from the university and the community. It’s National Institutes of Health funding (NIH), allowed them to send specimens to Premier Medical Laboratory Services in Greenville, for sequencing to see and confirm the strain of the virus.
“I want to give a big shoutout to them because sequencing is slow and they really rush to do these very quickly for us, because we had seen in our PCR test that there were some characteristics that could’ve been Omicron,” Dr. Dean said.
In a press release, representatives from Premier Medical Laboratory Services said, “As a proactive and solutions-driven company, we implemented Next Generation Sequencing to meet the needs of our population with preparedness for novel variants like Omicron,” said Kevin Murdock, CEO and Founder of Premier Medical Laboratory Services. “Through partnerships like ours with Clemson University, we are happy to increase the amount of data for South Carolina and the entire nation which is vital for vaccine efficacy and our understanding of the virus.”
Dr. Dean said of the 10 Omicron samples, only three were detected from the University.
“We have university testing and community testing. Of the ten we identified there were three from the university testing pool and the rest were from the community testing pool,” Dr. Dean said.
Dr. Dean said this was out of roughly 100 recent positive tests.
“The rest were Delta. So we didn’t have Omicron before. It was all Delta, and now we’re seeing some Omicron, but it’s still mostly delta,” Dr. Dean said.
University officials said infection rates on campus have remained low throughout the fall semester. However, with students and some staff on the holiday break, Dr. Dean said there are some concerns.
“I mean, there’s concern with the Omicron variant, because it’s been shown to be so transmissible, especially if you look at data from Europe and South Africa,” Dr. Dean said. “There’s some evidence that the Omicron variant may not be as bad…as dangerous as the Delta variant. However, there’s also some data that shows that it is the same,” Dr. Dean said. “So, I think right now we can say, it’s probably not more dangerous then the Delta variant, but it is more transmissible than the Delta variant,” she said.
No matter the variant, Dr. Dean said everyone should practice safety. The university also encourages anyone who wants and is able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and booster dose to do so.
“I think whether it’s Omicron, Delta, Alpha or other variants of COVID, the same mitigation measures apply,” Dr. Dean said. “Wear your mask, get vaccinated, and get a booster if you can. You know, stay socially distant and that keeps the spread low,” she said.
“Before you go with family, go get tested and make sure you’re negative before you go see your family,” Dr. Dean said. “And then if you have any symptoms at all, like if you have a sniffle, a sore throat, or your tummy doesn’t feel well, like a headache, go get tested,” Dr. Dean said.
Official with the university say they will continue to monitor community, local, state, and national trends, and work with public health experts to determine if any required adjustments are needed prior to students’ return for the spring.
Officials said they sent out testing and health requirements for the spring on December 8th (click here to read them). Officials said as of now, nothing has changed from the guidance they sent earlier this month.