UCI Forward

UCI Forward is our commitment to the well-being of our community as we ramp up campus operations. Working together, each of us doing our part, we can move UCI Forward.

Nov. 29 - Omicron variant and UCI, help maintain healthy blood supply

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Stem to stage: a glimpse through the rose garden near Barclay Theatre. Photo by Steve Zylius/UCI

Stem to stage: a glimpse through the rose garden near Barclay Theatre. Photo by Steve Zylius/UCI

Ask the Expert

n this continuing series, UCI experts answer questions about COVID-19, vaccinations, variants or the future of work. Submit questions via email.

Today’s question is fielded by David Souleles, director of UCI’s COVID-19 Response Team:

What do we know about the omicron variant, and how will it affect the campus?

On Friday, the World Health Organization designated COVID-19 omicron as a variant of concern based on evidence that the omicron variant has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves; for example, how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes. The variant was first detected in South Africa and has since been detected in a number of other countries, though not in the United States. Public health experts do, however, believe it will be detected in the U.S. as well. 

It is not yet clear whether omicron is more transmissible compared to other variants, including delta, or whether it causes more severe disease. The number of cases has risen in areas of South Africa where omicron is present, and epidemiological studies are underway to determine if this increase is because of omicron or other factors. The WHO and public health experts are working to understand how effective current vaccines and detection tests are for omicron. PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with omicron, and studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including antigen tests.

There are no changes to current campus policies or plans at this time. While public health experts continue to learn more about omicron, this serves as a good reminder for all of us to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu, and get those around us vaccinated and to get your COVID-19 booster dose when you are eligible to do so. Remember, all adults are eligible for boosters six months after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna and two months after the single Johnson & Johnson dose.  Remember to complete your daily symptom check, stay home if you are ill and get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms regardless of your vaccination status. If you will be traveling, be sure to check and follow CDC travel guidance for pre- and post-travel recommendations.


Claire Trevor School of the Arts Cyber Monday sale

Today only, the School of the Arts is offering discounts on remaining shows of the season: the youth/student rate for ALL purchasers. The offer is valid through 11:59 p.m. tonight (Nov. 29). The rate applies while tickets last, and no refunds are available for previous purchases. Obtain tickets at www.arts.uci.edu/promos with the code CYBER. For questions or support, call 949-824-2011 or email artstix@uci.edu.

Help maintain vital blood and plasma supplies

These are especially needed for trauma patients and those who are undergoing chemotherapy during the pandemic. Make an appointment at the UCI Health Blood Donor Center at ucihealth.org/donateblood or 714-456-LIFE (5433).


What we know and don’t know about omicron variant

The World Health Organization says it could still take some time to get a full picture of the threat posed by omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus, as scientists worldwide scramble to assess its multiple mutations. The U.N. health agency issued a statement saying it’s unclear whether omicron is more easily spread between people compared to other variants like delta and whether infection with the latest variant causes more severe disease.

‘Not a cause for panic’: Biden urges calm in face of omicron fears

President Biden today urged calm amid widespread concern about the omicron coronavirus variant first identified this month in southern Africa, urging Americans to get vaccinated and wear masks. The president stopped short, though, of advocating for any new restrictions, such as requiring vaccinations to board domestic flights or reimposing local mask mandates.

Vaccine makers race to address the latest variant

BioNTech, its partner Pfizer, and Moderna are rushing to explore ways to tailor their coronavirus shots to combat the newly identified omicron variant, which is prompting countries around the world to tighten restrictions to stop the spread. The firms are working to understand what level of protection their current vaccines offer and how to adapt them amid concern the variant's mutations may make it more transmissible and evade the body's immune response.

Merriam-Webster chooses vaccine as 2021 word of the year

With an expanded definition to reflect the times, Merriam-Webster has declared an omnipresent truth as its 2021 word of the year: vaccine. Today’s announcement of the selection follows “vax” as word of the year from the folks who publish the Oxford English Dictionary. And it comes after Merriam-Webster chose “pandemic” as tops in lookups last year on its online site.


Hanukkah celebration
Today, 6 p.m. (sponsored by Rohr Chabad and Hillel of UC Irvine)

Menorah Lights with Chancellor Gilman
Tuesday, 3 p.m. (sponsored by Hillel of UC Irvine)

Learn about ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan
Wednesday, 11 a.m. (sponsored by ScholarShare 529)

Wednesday Wellness Walk: UCI Ecological Preserve
Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. (sponsored by Student Wellness & Health Promotion)

Annual Tree Planting Event
Wednesday, noon (sponsored by EarthReps - UCI Housing Sustainability)

Nourishing the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Wednesday, noon (sponsored by Division of Continuing Education)

Water Recycling: Process, Politics and Implementation
Wednesday, noon (sponsored by Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Advanced Resume Writing
Wednesday, 3 p.m. (sponsored by Division of Career Pathways)

Chanukah with Anaheim Ducks
Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. (sponsored by Rohr Chabad)

Visit today.uci.edu to see and submit event listings. Events of general interest will be shared in UCI Digest two days before they occur.


Note: Some news sites require subscriptions to read articles. The UCI Libraries offer free subscriptions to The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, The Orange County Register and The Washington Post for students, faculty and staff.

Neutrino Signals Detected at Large Hadron Collider for First Time Ever

Newsweek, Nov. 26
Cited: Jonathan L. Feng, Distinguished Professor of physics & astronomy

Study Shows Most Physicians Lack Knowledge of Medical Cannabis

Forbes, Nov. 24
Cited: Daniele Piomelli, Distinguished Professor of anatomy & neurobiology, Louise Turner Arnold chair in neurosciences and director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis

This Fire-Loving Fungus Eats Charcoal, if It Must

The New York Times, Nov. 28
Cited: Kathleen Treseder, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology


Your feelings are valid.

Your feelings are valid.

Alltruism (“all true”) is a project supported by the Barnes & Noble Scholarship that aims to create connections through community, compassion and the creative arts. The initiative was part of The Alltruism Project, and more letters can be found on Instagram.

#UCIconnected spotlights student, alumni, faculty and staff photos, essays, shoutouts, hobbies, artwork, unusual office decorations, activities and more. Send submissions via email or post on social media with the #UCIconnected hashtag.


Two new campus cases

One employee and one student tested positive for COVID-19 from Thursday through Sunday. For more information, visit the UCI COVID-19 dashboard.

Remember to upload your vaccine record

Student Record Upload

Employee Record Upload

Potential workplace exposure

UCI provides this notification of a potential workplace COVID-19 exposure. Employees and subcontractors who were in these locations on the dates listed may have been exposed to the coronavirus. You may be entitled to various benefits under applicable federal and state laws and University-specific policies and agreements. The full notification is available on the UCI Forward site. If you have been identified as a close contact to a COVID-19 case, the UCI Contact Tracing Program will contact you and provide additional direction.

For COVID-19 questions

UCI Forward - information on campus status and operational updates

UCI Health COVID-19 Updates - important information related to UCI Health

UCI Health COVID-19 FAQs

UCI Coronavirus Response Center - available at covid19@uci.edu or via phone at (949) 824-9918

Contact Tracing and Vaccine Navigation Services - assistance with vaccines and vaccine uploads; available at contacttracing@uci.edu or via phone at (949) 824-2300

Program in Public Health chatline - answers to questions about COVID-19

For questions specific to your personal health situation, please contact your doctor or healthcare provider.