Cornell students from Westchester return home due to COVID-19 outbreak on campus

Cornell students are fleeing home to Westchester after a huge coronavirus outbreak at the university.

News 12 Staff

Dec 16, 2021, 3:44 AM

Updated 891 days ago

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Cornell students are fleeing home to Westchester after a huge coronavirus outbreak at the university.
Anabel Maldonado, of Bronxville and Maya Sauthoff, of Pleasantville, tell News 12 they're disappointed in the school's slow response.
The sophomores live in a sorority house with 35 girls, with an increasing number of them testing positive by the day.
They're now anxiously awaiting COVID-19 test results.
"I have to quarantine in my attic," Maldonado says.
Cornell reported more than 900 COVID-19 cases this week, with many of them being the omicron variant.
On Tuesday, the school shut down campus and made final exams virtual.
Some say - it's too little, too late.
"All Cornell students are a little disappointed and confused as to why we didn't do arrival testing, because that's where this all came from—Thanksgiving," Maldonado says.
In a statement, a Cornell representative told News 12: "The number of positive students in isolation is fluctuating and we would encourage you to consult our dashboard for the latest figures. Currently we have more than 850 students in isolation, and reserve capacity at local hotels to accommodate current quarantine needs for our community. We are working in partnership with our county's health department to coordinate on isolation protocols and assist students who have received a positive test. Because of the high volume of positive cases and contract tracing activity, officials at the Tomkins County Health Department are continuing to prioritize case calls to those who are over 65 years of age and children in K-12 settings, though positive cases are receiving automated messages via SMS with notification of a positive result from New York State. We are communicating this to our student community and trust that they will continue to follow public health guidance.
Cornell's extensive surveillance testing yesterday uncovered the likely early and rapid spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 among our student population. While preliminary, initial screening results indicate that the variant now accounts for a very high percentage of our positive COVID-19 cases. The presence of the initial Omicron variant coincides with an unusually high degree of transmission among vaccinated students after Thanksgiving travel and at the end of the semester.
For the past 20 months, Cornell has developed and followed a science-based approach to COVID-19 decision-making – including ongoing modeling and surveillance testing – that has helped us to identify positive cases early and, in concert with local public health officials, minimize the spread of the virus among our campus and the greater Ithaca communities. This approach is what led us to the early detection this past weekend of Omicron variant cases at Cornell.
Virtually every case of the Omicron variant to date has been found in fully vaccinated students, a portion of whom had also received a booster shot. We have not seen evidence of significant disease in our students to date. The measures we are taking to assist those students who have tested positive to complete their mandated 10-day isolation periods, and to help students who have tested negative to return safely home for the winter break, are in an effort to limit the spread of the Omicron variant to vulnerable populations.
The number of positive students in isolation is fluctuating and we would encourage you to consult our dashboard for the latest figures. Currently we have more than 850 students in isolation, and reserve capacity at local hotels to accommodate current quarantine needs for our community. We are working in partnership with our county's health department to coordinate on isolation protocols and assist students who have received a positive test. Because of the high volume of positive cases and contract tracing activity, officials at the Tomkins County Health Department are continuing to prioritize case calls to those who are over 65 years of age and children in K-12 settings, though positive cases are receiving automated messages via SMS with notification of a positive result from New York State. We are communicating this to our student community and trust that they will continue to follow public health guidance."
Students say there are some things Cornell can do to prevent another outbreak after winter break, including arrival testing once students come back and quarantining students who do get a positive test.


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