Monday, January 17th, 2022

Cornell goes to red alert, cancels graduation ceremony after student omicron outbreak


Cornell University recently announced a number of safety measures after moving to red alert status in response to a significant number of student samples that tested positive for the omicron variant, according to a university statement.  

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“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. While we must await confirmatory sequencing information to be sure that the source is Omicron, we are proceeding as if it is,” President Martha E. Pollack said

Cornell University West Campus

Cornell University West Campus
(iStock)

The says it based its decision on preliminary data that suggests the virus is more transmissible than other variants, so  “.. when you have high transmissibility, you’re going to have very high numbers of cases, and so even with lower rates of serious illness, outbreaks must be taken seriously.” 

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The school used modeling and surveillance testing to identify positive cases early and to minimize the spread of virus on campus, explained Joel Malina, vice president for university relations

Most reported student cases of the omicron variant were among fully vaccinated students, some of whom received booster shots, but there was no report of any severe disease among any infected students to date, Malina added

College students wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus.

College students wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus.
(istock)

The statement says all final exams have been moved to an online format as of noon Tuesday, December 14, with all university undergraduate activities being canceled, including the recognition ceremony for graduates. 

Students who tested negative for COVID-19 over the weekend were given permission to leave the campus, but were instructed to wear a mask at all times, to take a COVID-19 test at their final destination, and to self-quarantine until the result returns, Pollack detailed. 

In this April 8, 2021, student Jarrett Woo gets his Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination from nursing student Allie Rodriguez. (AP Photo/Phil Long, File)

In this April 8, 2021, student Jarrett Woo gets his Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccination from nursing student Allie Rodriguez. (AP Photo/Phil Long, File)

But students who did not test negative 48 hours prior to December 14, are strongly encouraged to schedule a supplemental test right away on  www.dailycheck.cornell.edu and to stay in their residences in Ithaca until the results return. 

Malina noted campus officials are assisting the students who have tested positive for COVID-19 with their required 10-day isolation period, according to NPR. 

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“At present, over 97% of our student body is free of the virus and we want everyone to be able to enjoy a healthy winter break with family and friends,” Pollack said.