Julia Nagel / Sun Staff Photographer

A student walks toward the entrance to the Sage Chapel surveillance testing site, with COVID-related signage in the foreground, on Oct. 17.

November 13, 2020

Cases Spike in Tompkins County, Cluster Identified in Cornell Greek Life

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With just one day left of in-person classes at Cornell, Tompkins County recorded its highest number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic on Thursday, totaling 101 active cases in the area. 

Cornell also experienced its highest count of cases reported in a single day since September, with six confirmed student cases on campus on Wednesday. Additional cases are expected to be released Friday, according to a University spokesperson. 

The upticks in cases in Tompkins County and at Cornell mirror national and statewide trends, which have both seen resurgences in COVID-19 cases during the past month — the U.S. tallied 142,860 of cases on Wednesday with New York at 4,821. When announcing a 30-case surge, the Tompkins County Health Department largely attributed the increase to three clusters.

In a Thursday evening email to students, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi wrote that the health department identified a cluster in Greek Life, but did not identify specific chapters. The Interfraternity and Panhellenic Council presidents did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication, and the University declined to comment outside of Lombardi’s email.

In a press release, the health department stated that college students who visited “multiple gatherings with different people at each gathering” had caused a cluster of over 10 positive cases to date and another cluster emerged from a gathering at a single household. A smaller, four-case cluster resulted from a religious group, the release stated.

In his email, Lombardi implored students to follow public health guidelines, and not mistake frequent surveillance testing as a substitute for precaution.

“[T]hose tests represent a moment in time and, even when negative, should in no way signal that we can relax on following public health guidance,” Lombardi wrote.

On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) released a slew of new restrictions aimed at curbing the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the region. The regulations target these same parties, banning any gatherings larger than 10 people, in addition to closing all bars, restaurants and gyms at 10 p.m.