Cornell imposes lockdown after Omicron is detected on campus

December 14, 2021, 9:49 PM UTC

Cornell University is moving final exams online, canceling activities involving undergraduates and shutting libraries after identifying evidence of the Covid-19 omicron variant in a “significant number” of positive student samples.

The Ivy League school in Ithaca, NY, moved to “alert level red” days before the end of the semester, closing the campus to visitors and instructing students to avoid nonessential contact with others, according to a statement on its website Tuesday.

“Our surveillance testing has continued to identify the rapid spread of Covid-19 among our student population,” President Martha Pollack said in the statement. “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.” 

College campuses largely returned to normal this semester, as they held in-person classes and indoor sporting events. Yet the latest variant is spreading as students prepare to leave for the holiday break, dispersing across the U.S. and beyond.

Cornell is asking students who haven’t tested negative in the past 48 hours to get a supplemental test as soon as possible and remain on campus until they receive results.  The school reported 469 active student cases of Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to its dashboard.

New York has identified 38 cases of the omicron variant in the state, Governor Kathy Hochul said Tuesday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant now comprises 3% of all sequenced cases in the country, up from 0.1% in early December.

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