Damakant Jayshi

Five members of the Wausau School Board on Monday shot down a request to discuss the impact of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, with a medical advisor during the group’s next meeting

During Monday’s meeting Jane Rusch suggested inviting Dr. Jeffrey Lamont, a Wausau-based pediatrician and advisor to nurses in the district, to the next board meeting for that discussion.

Two months ago, Dr. Lamont had requested the Board to consider requiring mandatory indoor masking within school buildings, as suggested by local and federal public health agencies. The district has so far maintained an optional mask policy for the 2021-2022 school year.

Pat McKee, Karen Vandenberg, Jon Creisher, Lee Webster and Cody Nikolai voted against adding the discussion to the next board meeting’s agenda.

Omicron is the latest COVID-19 variant and has been detected in more than half of U.S. states, including Wisconsin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, though how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown.

CDC officials say they expect that anyone with an Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms. As of Tuesday, more data are needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.

Health officials say Marathon County has now jumped to the ‘critically high’ category from ‘very high’ for COVID-19.

Damakant Jayshi is a reporter for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth Project that places journalists into local newsrooms. Reach him at damakant@wausaupilotandreview.com.