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Genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variants on a university campus.

Abstract

Novel variants continue to emerge in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. University testing programs may provide timely epidemiologic and genomic surveillance data to inform public health responses. We conducted testing from September 2021 to February 2022 in a university population under vaccination and indoor mask mandates. A total of 3,048 of 24,393 individuals tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR; whole genome sequencing identified 209 Delta and 1,730 Omicron genomes of the 1,939 total sequenced. Compared to Delta, Omicron had a shorter median serial interval between genetically identical, symptomatic infections within households (2 versus 6 days, P = 0.021). Omicron also demonstrated a greater peak reproductive number (2.4 versus 1.8), and a 1.07 (95% confidence interval: 0.58, 1.57; P < 0.0001) higher mean cycle threshold value. Despite near universal vaccination and stringent mitigation measures, Omicron rapidly displaced the Delta variant to become the predominant viral strain and led to a surge in cases in a university population.

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