It will soon mark two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is still a prevalent issue today. New variants have developed since 2020 such as Delta and Omicron according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention. 

As Texas Tech plans to continue to have in person classes and normally scheduled events, doctors and Tech safety organizations inform the Tech community about how to stay safe in these conditions, especially against Omicron. Dr. Kenneth Lindemann from The Woodlands, is a consultant for Corporate Medical Advisors that talks about COVID-19 and it’s development over the years.

“We could say there are many thousands of different strains that have already been identified and will continue to be identified. That’s what viruses do. They wrap. They’re constantly mutating,” Lindemann said. 

Due to this virus constantly mutating, its mutations have been labeled as variants or variants of concern Lindemann said. This means they are potential risks to the public, which is why there have been Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19. 

Lindemann said that the biggest difference between the two variants is the level of infection. This means how the virus attacks the cells and what effect it has on the body. While Omicron is more contagious, it has shown to have less severe side effects to the body than previous variants. 

“All the data we are getting so far pretty consistently shows that for the vast, vast majority of people it’s a relatively mild illness,” Lindemann said. 

Dr. Lindemann said it is not much of a surprise for this outcome as these are Coronaviruses. As it is a family, the virus has been around since the early 1960s and now has the same effects of the common cold. 

While it is not certain, Dr. Lindemann says that it is hoped that for SARS COV, it will eventually settle into the same positions as previous Coronaviruses and will witness another common cold virus evolve in front of us over the next few years. In the meantime, the vaccine is an option for those to protect themselves from the current effects of the virus.

“So the rationale for vaccination is to try to create a level of immunity so that when you see the virus, it will be as though you had seen it before,” Lindemann said. 

The vaccine does not contain the virus for which a person creates immunity. Dr. Lindemann said that there is a piece taken from the structure of the virus that is duplicated into a vaccine. 

The virus is like a tapestry, Lindemann said. A part of the tapestry is taken and created to develop a vaccine that it used to create antibodies. 

“So we don’t need the whole virus, the functional virus isn’t necessary for us. And of course, again with some of the newer vaccine technology that we’ve now been able to advance in the threat of SARS COV,” Lindemann said. 

For those who have had COVID-19 previously and are wondering if getting the vaccine will have any effect, it doubles as another layer of protection, Lindemann said. People may develop immunity from contracting the virus previously, but by getting the vaccine, it will produce more antibodies. 

It does not mean however that people should wait to get infected in order for their bodies to create natural antibodies, Lindemann said. 

“There’s no problem between having been previously infected and then getting vaccinated and in fact, the data is very clear. That individuals who have been previously infected naturally developed a natural immune response and then get vaccinated have a far greater level of protection, lower risk of the health consequences that we’re really concerned about so the combination of a natural infection plus vaccination is actually a very good combination,” Lindemann said. 

While vaccinations are important to keep in mind as a tool to combat the virus, that is only part of the equation in order to best protect oneself, Lindemann said. Self responsibility goes beyond getting the vaccine or wearing just a mask. 

The “Swiss Cheese Model” is an example of what that means, Lindemann said. Additional measures have to be taken into place in order to truly reduce the risk of being infected or being infectious, Lindemann said. 

“One of those many layers of Swiss cheese when you look at this model is masks use and it is an important means of reducing transmission risks to you and from you,” Lindeman said. “When you look at the picture, you’ll see there are many other layers in there that we need to pay attention to.” 

In order to help students create those layers of protection at Tech, resources from student organizations and campus will be available. Ashley Marino, program for manager communications marketing and design for the Risk Intervention and Safety Education from Lubbock said RISE is there for students. 

Marino said that the last semester was more relaxed for students as precautions were taken more lightly. However, with the Omicron variant creating another spike in cases, old habits must be revisited. 

“We launched our Masked Raider campaign and that included a pledge, stickers and a lot of education. We have resource sheets still in our office about the virus throughout the duration of the campaign,” Marino said. “Or throughout the duration of COVID.”

RISE is up to date on their social media in order to inform students about many COVID-19 resources Marino said. From mask policies, to at home versus in person testing, RISE takes that information and breaks it down to students to stay up to date and easily understand it. 

Marino said that students can also keep up to date website. For this semester, it has been updated and is the best resource for students to get the most up to date information Marino said. 

“We’ve been doing this for two years, but that’s two years in comparison to years and years and decades of people going to college before us. “So it’s definitely a different experience,” Marino said. “There are ways to enjoy it safely.”

On January 5th, Texas Tech, Office of the President announced that for Spring 2022, students may expect their colleges to adapt in response to the rise in cases according to the release. If there are any changes to a students schedule or modality of course, it should be communicated by the instructor. 

Resources about testing, mental health and/or guidance on what a student can do during this time is available on the Tech COVID-19 website. President Lawrence Schovanec wishes everyone a successful spring semester, and students and their families a healthy and prosperous new year according to the announcement. 

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