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MSU identifies omicron variant on campus; boosters required for spring semester

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Michigan State University has identified its first cases of the omicron variant on campus. The news comes as MSU announced Friday that all eligible faculty, staff and in-person students must get a COVID-19 booster shot beginning next semester.

The university has identified at least two omnicron cases thus far, said Jack Lipton, who runs the university's Early Detection Program.

"We have two cases that were sequenced and so we have proof positive of it," he said.

The test results have been sent to the state of Michigan for further confirmation, MSU spokesman Dan Olsen said.

To prevent further spread of omicron, every member of the MSU community needs to receive a booster, Lipton emphasized.

“We should be decisive about it," he added. "We should be aggressive about it. And we shouldn't give people excuses to not get boosters."

Currently, the university requires all faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, except for those with medical or religious waivers. That means one dose of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine or two doses from Moderna or Pfizer. Members of the campus community must submit an electronic form self-reporting the date they received their shots and the type of vaccine they received.

But beginning next year, self-reporting will not be enough. Students and staff will need to submit documented proof of vaccination by Jan. 18, MSU President Dr. Samuel Stanley, Jr. announced late last month.

Stanley attributed the change to a executive order from U.S. President Joe Biden that applies to organizations like MSU that contract with the federal government.

The booster requirement will apply to students and employees who got the last dose of a one or two-dose regimen more than six months ago.

“We are taking another step to continue to protect our Spartan community by form of COVID boosters," Olsen said. "We know that they are safe, effective and the data show from the CDC that they are important in combating some of the variants that we are seeing, including omicron.”

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