Joao Silva/The New York Times

The omicron variant of COVID-19 virus has led to the declaration of a State of Emergency in NY State.

November 28, 2021

Cornell COVID Cases Rise as Holiday Season Nears

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As the holiday season swings into gear and Ithaca witnesses its first snow flurries of the winter, Cornell COVID-19 cases have risen to 30 to 50 cases a week for the past three weeks.

The increase in case numbers is in line with rising cases across the country. The slight uptick in Ithaca cases also comes after New York State declared a state of emergency last Friday as a precautionary measure against high case counts and the threat of the newly discovered omicron variant.

As students settle back into Ithaca as they return from Thanksgiving break, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard, Cornell reported almost 40 cases between Nov. 17 and Nov. 23, and over 50 in the seven-day period before that. This marks an increase from case counts just a month ago, when daily case counts were in the single digits.

Most of the new cases come from Cornell students and staff. From Nov. 17 to Nov. 23, 16 of the new positive cases were from students and 21 were from staff. Cornell has been on green alert level since Sept. 24, when it moved to yellow due to more than 400 cases reported at the beginning of the semester.

Tompkins County COVID cases have also risen since mid-October, with 259 new cases reported between Nov. 21 and Nov. 28. Total active cases in the county have hovered around 200 for the past few weeks, and 72 new cases were reported on Nov. 27 alone.

Meanwhile, the omicron variant, first identified in southern Africa, has caused global concern due to containing a number of mutations. 

Though no known cases of the omicron variant have been reported in the United States as of Nov. 28, many countries have temporarily banned flights from South Africa, and countries including the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have reported cases associated with travel from the region.

In 2020, Cornell recorded a slight increase in COVID cases in November and December, despite most students returning home after Thanksgiving. It remains to be seen whether the influx of students who traveled off campus for the break, along with the increasingly cold weather, will drive up cases as Cornell heads toward the end of its first fully in-person semester since 2019.