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New York University Reopens Amid the Omicron Surge

NYU student Qingyu Mo waits in t line to show her screener pass to the NYU Campus Safety Officer. The university requires the Daily COVID Screener for campus access. January 24, 2022. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Faculty and students at New York University started the spring semester in person today as the new Omicron variant drives U.S. daily cases to new highs. 

According to NYC Health, the daily average of total cases for the last seven days was 8,269, almost doubling the highest case counts since last winter, making back to school a stressful endeavor.“The rising cases have worried me recently,” said Qingyu Mo, an undergraduate student at NYU. “I’m not most afraid of the fact that I’ll get COVID, but I’m concerned about the aftermath I’ll get. I’ll have to postpone my plans, being unable to travel, self-quarantining till I’m fully recovered, etc.”

New protocols require all faculty, staff, and students to be boosted before attending in-person classes. Masks are required throughout the university.

Some parents of NYU students are worried whether their children are safe in the Covid epicenter. Xiaojie Jiang has the extra stress of having her daughter study in a foreign country.

“We fear that as the pandemic is getting worse again, whether our children are safe taking in-person classes,” said Xiaojie Jiang, whose daughter, a Chinese international student, is graduating this spring. “She has been unable to come back home since 2020 because of the pandemic and the consequent border restrictions. We miss and worry about her deeply.”

Jiang said that she is nearly 10,000 miles away from her daughter and can do nothing to help. 

But the thrill of being on campus can not be dampened by the threat of the virus for some students.

“This is my first day and I’m really excited. The mask mandate is really good and keeps everyone safe,” said Diya Desai, a spring-admit freshman at NYU.

Desai is thrilled not to be taking online classes. The booster mandate, the strict sanitation guidelines, and the cleaning schedule at NYU make her more confident about returning in person. NYU is offering a temporary remote option for students. The campus positivity rate is about 10%.

“NYU has done a great job making sure that we can still go to buildings, libraries, and everything,” said Desai. 

The Omicron wave is receding in New York. Although the statewide daily average is still high, new daily cases have been falling in New York City since Jan. 3. Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the daily percent positivity is below 10% again for the first time since Dec. 20.

“For right now, I think we are doing the best we can,” she said. “And if everything goes as planned and everyone does what they’re supposed to, I think we’re definitely heading in a positive direction.”