Ivy League campus shuts down over suspected Omicron cases
Cornell University is shutting down its Ithaca, New York campus after finding an outbreak of Covid-19 among 3% of the students, possibly caused by the Omicron variant.
Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said on Tuesday the school is moving to “alert level red” after their “surveillance” testing found “rapid spread” of Covid-19 among students.
The school suspects that “a significant number” of detected infections have been caused by the Omicron variant, noting that the assumption is based on “preliminary” findings of the Ivy League university’s Covid-19 testing lab.
“I want to make clear that our evidence of Omicron is preliminary. PCR testing has identified its hallmark (the so-called S-gene dropout) in a substantial number of virus samples,” Pollack wrote. “While we must await confirmatory sequencing information to be sure that the source is Omicron, we are proceeding as if it is.”
In the meantime, all final exams will be moving online. Fitness centers, libraries, and other public spaces will also be closed. The students are also encouraged not to gather in groups and to “grab and go” if they are taking advantage of the campus dining hall. All campus activities have also been canceled.
Cornell’s Ithaca campus had been put on “alert level yellow” only days ago, with the students being urged to get booster shots, continue masking indoors even if they were vaccinated, and gather only in “small groups.”
Under the new rules, students who wish to leave the locked-down campus will need a negative Covid test taken within the past 48 hours. If they have one, then they are “free” to travel as they like, though the school added that they should “wear a mask at all times during travel, take a Covid-19 test at your destination, and self-quarantine until you receive your result.”
Visitors are also not allowed on campus unless they are picking up a student to travel for their winter break.
There are currently roughly 470 positive cases of Covid-19 at Cornell, according to the school, meaning that some 97% of the students are “free of the virus” at the moment.