New Cornell Outbreak: Nearly 3% of Undergrads Test Positive in 3 Days

Cornell warned this week it was seeing a "substantial" increase of COVID-19 cases heading into spring break

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Cases of COVID-19 have surged at Cornell University in recent days, creating a sense of déjà vu for a school that sounded the alarm in early winter when an omicron outbreak closed facilities and moved finals online.

The last three of days of recorded data on the university's website show a measurable spike in positive tests among undergraduate students, whose population boasts a 97% vaccination rate.

In that time period, at least 503 cases of the virus have been detected among all students, staff and faculty, more than 80% of which are from the undergrad body. The more than 400 students who tested positive between Tuesday and Thursday this week account for nearly 3% of all undergraduate students (2.68%, to be precise).

Cornell called a "red alert" for students in mid-December, moving all finals online, cancelling on-campus events and closing facilities as COVID-19 omicron infections surged. The university's current alert level is "yellow."

The Radio City Rockettes are just the latest event to be impacted by the rising COVID rates and breakthrough cases, as omicron continues to spread. But one thing that has not yet been impacted: People choosing to travel for the holidays. NBC New York's Gilma Avalos and Anjali Hemphill have team coverage.

University leaders chose to upgrade to a "yellow alert" due to COVID-19 cases "increasing beyond our predictions," they said Wednesday.

"This rising transmission is likely due to a number of factors, including relaxing mask requirements, the emergence of the BA.2 variant, and increased social activities," a message from the provost and other leaders read.

That level of alert asks that students, staff and faculty wear high-quality masks at social events in and around campus, do not attend class or work if sick, and test for the virus if recently exposed.

Students have also been urged to test before and after spring break, which runs the first full week of April. Two antigen test kits are available for pickup at campus testing sites.

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