OLIVER MCKENNA | THE DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
The newly discovered COVID-19 Delta variant is one of students’ biggest threats as the fall semester approaches.
WSU is taking precautions for another potential outbreak of the virus, with unvaccinated students, faculty members and staff being the most impacted, said Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications.
“I would say that we certainly are concerned about the Delta variant … all indications are that it is a highly transmissible variant,” Weiler said.
One step in preparing for potential outbreaks includes getting isolation dorms ready as well as getting students vaccinated, he said.
“There is a small number of cases here within the county currently that could well go up,” he said. “As we see more people coming back to the Pullman community … it’s critical that people get those vaccines now.”
Whitman County regularly reports new COVID-19 and Delta variant cases, but there is no reason to worry yet, said Guy Palmer, WSU Global Health senior director and regents professor of pathology and infectious diseases.
“What we’re seeing [in] most places right now, is the virus does an incredibly good job at finding unvaccinated people,” Palmer said. “It’s finding pockets of unvaccinated individuals and spreading quickly among them.”
Wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status could benefit everyone even though masks are no longer mandatory on campus for vaccinated individuals, he said.
“In the last year, we’ve seen … the lowest levels of things like the flu that we’ve seen in decades,” Palmer said. “That’s because of masking and social distancing, so it does provide you some protection, not only against COVID but against other respiratory viruses.”
Palmer said people aged 19 to 29 are more susceptible to the variant because they are not getting vaccinated as much. The variant could be very dangerous on a college campus and lead to both vaccinated and unvaccinated students contracting COVID-19.
“We’re gonna see a very different dynamic as we go into the fall,” Palmer said. “Unvaccinated individuals are going to be susceptible. We’re going to see more cases at a younger population”
Around 90 percent of people on campus need to get vaccinated to achieve some type of herd immunity. 97 percent of people who uploaded their vaccine statuses for the fall received their COVID-19 vaccinations, he said.
“There is probably a handful of people who have not received their vaccinations yet,” Weiler said. “The Delta variant should be a red flag that they need to take that step and get vaccinated.”