Cornell shuts down parts of campus amid coronavirus surge

Cornell University is shutting down parts of its campus and is moving finals exams online amid a “rapid spread” of coronavirus cases among students.

According to Cornell’s online COVID-19 dashboard, 469 students tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, and the university had an overall positivity rate of 3.01 percent the week of Dec. 6.

In a letter to the student body, university president Martha Pollack said due to the closures, all end-of-semester finals exams will be moved online and all campus activities and athletics are canceled.

The school libraries are closed as well, though its offices and laboratories will remain open during the period. Still, the school’s website notes that “undergraduate students should not participate in any work-study or lab work.”

Pollack said the school’s COVID-19 lab team detected evidence of the omicron variant “in a significant number of Monday’s positive student samples.” This led to the school moving to an “alert level red,” with the immediate closure of certain parts of campus.

“While I want to provide reassurance that, to date, we have not seen severe illness in any of our infected students, we do have a role to play in reducing the spread of the disease in the broader community,” Pollack wrote. “The fact that we have not experienced severe illness among our student population may lead some to ask why we are imposing such serious steps.”

In a statement, Cornell’s spokesperson said the omicron variant has been found in fully vaccinated students and those who had received their booster shots.

“We have not seen evidence of significant disease in our students to date,” CU spokesperson said. “The measures we are taking to assist those students who have tested positive to complete their mandated 10-day isolation periods, and to help students who have tested negative to return safely home for the winter break, are in an effort to limit the spread of the Omicron variant to vulnerable populations.”

This comes as more than a dozen U.S. states have reported omicron variant cases earlier this month. 

According to its academic calendar, Cornell’s last day of class was Dec. 7. Final exams are scheduled through Dec. 11-18.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:05 p.m. to note that Cornell’s offices and laboratories remain open.

Tags Cornell University Ithaca New York Omicron variant

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