Cornell University goes online, cancels activities after COVID-19 outbreak

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Cornell University. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

Updated: 12/15/21 — 3:00 p.m.

Tompkins County currently has more than 1,100 active COVID-19 cases. The vast majority of them, nearly 900, can be attributed to Cornell University students. But the county only has nine hospitalizations.

Original story: VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Cornell University is cancelling all student activities and moving final exams online, after a recent COVID-19 outbreak. More than 400 positive cases were confirmed over the weekend. That makes up about half of all the active cases in Tompkins County. The more contagious omicron variant was also found in positive student samples on Monday. 

Overall, there are almost 900 active cases in the county. The current number is higher than it’s ever been in Tompkins. 

Public Health Director Frank Kruppa said that given how little we know about omicron, Cornell University is being suitably cautious.

“It’s really because of the unknown of omicron. It’s still new and we’re still learning about it. It certainly does appear to be more transmissible, at least from our experience here in Tompkins County,” Kruppa said. 

A surveillance testing site at Cornell University. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

The county is still waiting for some tests to be sequenced by Cornell’s lab. But Kruppa said based on initial screening, it’s likely that many of them will test positive for the omicron variant.

Between the new variant and holiday travel, Kruppa said the health department did expect cases to increase. But he added that it’s important to keep in mind that only ten residents are currently hospitalized. 

“While we’re concerned that our numbers are up for cases, that’s never a good thing, we’re really hyper focused on those hospitalization numbers,” Kruppa said.

He emphasized that the ways to stop community spread remain the same. He urged residents to get vaccinated and boosted, wear masks, and continue to social distance.

In a statement, Cornell President Martha Pollack said while it’s disappointing to have to cancel activities with only a few days left in the semester, it’s necessary in order to reduce the spread to the broader community. Students are encouraged to get tested before they leave campus.