As cases of COVID-19 surge at Cornell, local health officials say every single student sample they tested was the omicron variant, underlining how quickly the highly contagious virus is spreading.
Tompkins County health officials said late Friday they checked 115 samples from COVID-positive students ages 18-24 and every single one of them was the omicron variant, which was unknown to science less than a month ago.
None of the students in question are severely ill, they added.
At a community testing site at a local mall, 18 of 44 positive samples were omicron, suggesting community spread well off campus too.
Cornell omicron outbreak
Cornell was one of the first universities to sound the alarm about an omicron outbreak, closing facilities and moving finals online last Tuesday. At that time they warned that a "significant number" of positive tests from the prior day showed evidence of the variant, which was first publicly identified by South African doctors on Nov. 24.
The university has reported more than 200 positive tests a day for six straight days, almost all of them among students. Before Thanksgiving, the Ithaca campus was averaging about eight positive tests a day.
In the week through Dec. 16, Cornell reported 1,502 COVID cases on campus -- up 7x from the prior week and nearly 20x from two weeks prior.
That mirrors the surge seen elsewhere. On Friday the state of New York reported the highest single-day case total of the entire pandemic, more than 21,000 new positives -- nearly double over a week.