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With omicron wave headed for Oregon, University of Portland requires COVID-19 booster shots for spring semester

With the omicron spike slated to hit Oregon soon, the University of Portland has made booster shots mandatory for returning students and staff.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The University of Portland (UP) announced on Tuesday that it will require COVID-19 boosters for students, faculty and staff who are returning for the spring semester beginning Jan. 10.

According to a release from the school, the University of Portland is requiring that all students, faculty and staff have their booster two weeks after their eligibility date with Feb. 1 being the final deadline to have received a booster.

The school is also asking that all students be tested for COVID-19 before arriving on campus. Additional testing will take place approximately five days after their arrival. The first week of classes on Jan. 10 will be administered online as a precaution against COVID-19.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, two principles have guided our efforts: first, promoting the health and well-being of UP community members, and second, living out our mission as a face-to-face, residential institution,” said Dr. Herbert Medina, UP provost and acting president. “The measures we announce today are intended to help us achieve both goals and safely return to campus for our new academic term. I am confident that with continued vigilance and adherence to our COVID-19 protocols, the coming semester will be just as successful as the last.”

UP has a vaccination rate of 96.4% and required vaccination for students, staff and faculty at the beginning of the 2021 fall term. In a news release, UP reported that it had no major outbreaks during the fall semester. UP has also made other changes to accommodate the issues of the pandemic. It has made tents available for outdoor dining and socializing. COVID-19 tests are also available in campus residence halls, and the campus safety office and health and counseling center. All sporting events require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for entry.

UP will accept students back on Jan. 8.

RELATED: Health officials fear omicron wave will be worse than delta

Health officials have expressed concern that the omicron wave will hit Oregon worse in terms of the number of cases and hospitalizations than the delta wave did when it peaked in September 2021. During the peak of the delta wave, Oregon saw packed ICUs and younger, sicker patients. Initial omicron data suggested that it may be causing fewer hospitalizations, but local health officials expect the spike of cases and hospitalizations to be dramatic.

"We’re all predicting, and I was in a meeting this morning with all the health care systems in the region, that within these next 7 to 14 days we should see things take off in a near-linear straight line up,” said Oregon Health & Science University epidemiologist Dr. Peter Graven on Monday.

Local doctors are once again urging Oregonians to be vaccinated if they have not done so yet and to be boosted when eligible. On Monday there were nearly 10,000 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) from over the weekend, a large uptick from numbers just two weeks ago which hovered between 1,000-1,500 or so a day.

OHA also reported on Monday that there were 498 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 36 more than was reported on Sunday. Emergency departments are already experiencing the strain of COVID-19. OHA asks that if you need to be rested for COVID-19 that you do not go to an emergency department but instead visit a commercial pharmacy or testing center.

Here is a list of places you can be vaccinated or receive a booster at.

RELATED: Masks, testing and vaccination will all be key to keeping schools open during omicron, state officials say