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Omicron's Spread Forces Shutdown of Cornell Campus


By Dan Hounsell Educational Facilities

Not only is COVID-19 not going away, the highly transmissible virus is spreading rapidly nationwide, prompting many institutional and commercial facilities to rethink and rescind the reopening strategies that were popular topics during the summer and fall of 2021. The most recent and highest-profile reversal came from Cornell University. 

The university announced recently that it is shutting down its Ithaca, N.Y., campus and is moving to its highest alert level because of what university officials say is a rapid spread of COVID-19 cases among students. The campus reported 469 active student cases of the coronavirus as of Dec. 14 and that, for the week of Dec. 6, about 3 percent of tests were positive among the students tested, according to its online COVID-19 dashboard. 

“Since our Saturday message, our surveillance testing has continued to identify the rapid spread of COVID-19 among our student population” Martha Pollack, Cornell’s president wrote in a message to students. “While faculty and staff case numbers currently remain low, just last evening our COVID-19 testing lab team identified evidence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in a significant number of Monday’s positive student samples. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, the university is moving to Alert Level Red and announcing a number of immediate measures." The measures included: 

  • All university activities involving undergraduates, including events and social gatherings, and all university-sponsored events, including winter celebrations, are canceled. 
  • The Dec. 18 recognition ceremony for December graduates is canceled. 
  • Students utilizing Cornell Dining are strongly encouraged to grab-and-go. 
  • Libraries are closed to students. 
  • Athletics competitions on Sunday are cancelled. Fitness centers and gyms are closed to students. 
  • Offices and labs remain open, but undergraduate students should not participate in any work-study or lab work.

Dan Hounsell is senior editor, facility group.

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