Several more universities are cancelling events or all but shutting down their campuses as a new wave of Covid- 19 cases begins to sweep across their communities. In each case, some of the new cases include the Omicron variant.
Among the latest institutions announcing that they were cancelling most events and shifting exams to online administration were New York University, Princeton University and George Washington University.
Those moves comes after Cornell University went to a Code Red alert on Tuesday, following an outbreak of hundreds of new Covid-19 cases on its campus. Cornell University President Martha Pollack sent an online letter to students, informing them that the Omicron variant was found “in a significant number of Monday’s positive student samples.”
As a result, Cornell moved all final exams for the fall semester online, closed the library to students and immediately canceled almost all campus activities.
At New York University, all “discretionary, non-essential, non-academic gatherings and events,” including graduations, holiday parties, study groups and athletic competitions were cancelled immediately because of what the school termed “a considerable acceleration in the rate of new cases in our community.” In addition, the statement continued: “We strongly encourage that final examinations and/or assessments be changed to remote/online format.”
On December 14, Princeton University informed students that it was shifting “all final exams to a remote format so that students will be able to leave campus at their earliest convenience.”
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It added that it had seen “an uptick in cases among undergraduates during the last 24 hours—including suspected cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant.”
Princeton further encouraged students who “use public transportation to travel for Winter Break to consider leaving as soon as possible.” And it added that all indoor gatherings with food, and those where face coverings can’t be worn, be canceled or postponed effective Thursday, December 16 through Friday, January 7, 2022. Finally, Princeton said it would institute a booster mandate for students, faculty, and staff, requiring that all eligible individuals must receive receive a booster by January 31, 2022.
Also on Wednesday, officials at Georgetown University posted a message that its testing program had identified “a significant increase in positive COVID-19 cases among members of our university community.” The statement added that “while these cases are not severe and vaccination continues to provide strong protection, it is critical that we act to limit the further spread of cases.”
As a result, the University said that all in-person social gatherings and events are cancelled, effective immediately. In addition, exams scheduled for Friday, December 17, through the end of the semester were to be given virtually.
As the fall semester draws to a close, a number of colleges and universities have begun to issue mandates that students, faculty and staff receive vaccine booster shots prior to, or shortly after, returning for the spring, 2022 semester. But this latest news, which appears to suggest that the new surge is spreading more rapidly than might have been anticipated, is sure to pressure more institutions into making the Covid-19 boosters mandatory.