Binghamton University students have an extra week of winter break this year due to increasing rates of the Omicron variant, according to a Dec. 23 B-Line News Addition.

The message from BU President Harvey Stenger announced that the start date of the semester will be pushed back, with classes starting on Jan. 25 instead of Jan. 18. The end date of the semester will also be pushed back five class days, with the new last day of classes being May 11. The new final exam period is May 13 to May 19, and commencement will now be held from May 20 to May 22.

The Omicron variant has sparked new guidelines and a renewed focus on the COVID-19 pandemic across the United States. In New York state, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases has reached 21,717 — the highest number since the start of the pandemic. While infectivity is at an all-time high, deaths have not spiked at this time and the seven-day average deaths for the state currently sits at 61.

This announcement comes one day after a new academic calendar with a Jan. 25 start date was posted on the University’s website with numerous errors, such as scheduling all final examinations in one day and no changes made to the date of commencement to reflect the new start date.

In the B-Line News Addition, Stenger also encouraged all students to self-test before returning to campus, with off-campus students recommended to test negative 72 hours before returning to their in-person classes. On-campus residents will be required to be test negative on campus before moving into their dorms and attending in-person classes.

“We strongly encourage on-campus residents to self-test before returning to campus and to remain at home if they test positive to avoid having to return home immediately upon arrival,” Stenger wrote. “Move-in to campus residence halls will occur from Jan. 20-23. All residential students will then be tested for COVID-19 at the campus Surveillance Testing Center in Old Union Hall in the [University] Union prior to being allowed to move into their rooms. Any student who tests positive will be required to return home or will be placed in campus isolation housing if it is not possible to return home.”

According to the announcement, more surveillance testing will take place this coming semester, available to both on- and off-campus students. Students will be informed in advance what weeks they will be tested, with vaccinated students being expected to be tested once per month. Unvaccinated students will still be required to get tested weekly.

This is a developing story. Pipe Dream will update this story as more information becomes available.