Cornell cancels December graduation, finals moved to online due to Omicron variant detection

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – Cornell University announced their Ithaca campus will be moving to “Alert Level Red” due to the detection of the Omicron variant in a “significant number of Monday’s positive student samples.”

The announcement brings several changes to the campus’ student life and academic schedules, including moving finals to virtual platforms and canceling the December graduation recognition ceremony.

University President Martha E. Pollack announced the changes on Tuesday morning, saying they hope these changes will limit the spread of COVID-19 and Omicron prior to students leaving for the winter break.

Academic guidance:

  • All final exams will move to an online format as of noon, Tuesday, December 14. Exams that have already been moved to an online format will proceed as scheduled, including today’s exams. Some exams still scheduled to be in person may be able to switch immediately to an online modality; others may need to be rescheduled to give faculty time to pivot. Please be vigilant about looking for email updates from your faculty. More details about exams will be posted to the academic policies section on the COVID-19 website as soon as available.

Event cancellations and campus impacts:

  • All university activities involving undergraduates (including events and social gatherings) and all university-sponsored events (including winter celebrations) are canceled.
  • The December 18 recognition ceremony for December graduates is canceled.
  • Students utilizing Cornell Dining are strongly encouraged to “grab-and-go”; if you must eat near others, please do so at a distance.
  • Libraries are closed to students.
  • Athletics competitions on Sunday are canceled. 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.

Student travel and campus public health guidance:

  • Students who have tested negative within the past 48 hours (Saturday or Sunday) and wish to leave campus are welcome to do so. Please wear a mask at all times during travel, take a COVID-19 test at your destination, and self-quarantine until you receive your result.
  • All students must complete their Departure Checklist prior to leaving campus.
  • Any student who has not tested negative in the past 48 hours should get a supplemental test as soon as possible. Schedule your test at www.dailycheck.cornell.edu. Students are encouraged to stay in Ithaca, in their residences, until their test results are received, and severely limit interactions with others during that time. More information about departure testing, how to get results, and extended appointment hours is available in the Daily Check.
  • We will continue to assist our on-campus residential students who have tested positive in safely isolating for the required 10-day duration until they receive approval from the Tompkins County Health Department to travel safely.
  • Visitors and guests are not allowed on campus, with the exception of those picking up students for break. In that case, we ask that you remain continuously masked while briefly on campus.
  • Students should avoid nonessential contact with others and increase their vigilance with mask-wearing, distancing, and hand washing. 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.

Staff and faculty:

  • Mandatory surveillance testing will continue as normal for all employees currently enrolled. Supplemental testing will continue to be available for all employees. 

The university says they have not seen any severe illness among students infected with the Omicron variant.

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