The good news is that all the cases appear to be minor.
It turns out the newest variant doesn’t give a damn about your final exams — at least not if you’re a Cornell student, where 903 students tested positive for COVID between December 7-13. The spookiest part? A significant number of those cases were identified as the Omicron variant.
After it released its COVID results, the Ivy moved to a level red alert and canceled all activities, closed its campus and moved final exams online, per CNN. The outbreak happened despite the fact that a majority of its student body, 97%, are fully vaccinated, according to the university’s website. Some of the students who tested positive had even gotten their booster shots.
For many schools, this Fall semester was a first attempt at resuming in-person classes since the panny began. Hundreds of colleges, including Cornell, require proof of COVID vaccinations for enrollment, occasional testing and wearing face masks indoors. Despite all of these measures, the fact that students still got infected might be a testament to just how transmissible Omicron appears to be could be a warning of what’s to come at other places where people congregate (which is everywhere, pretty much).
But don’t run to the nearest wooded area to enroll in survival school just yet. There’s actually good news this time: None of the people who’ve had breakthrough COVID infections at Cornell have been hospitalized and transmission among professors and staff remained low.
“While I want to provide reassurance that, to date, we have not seen severe illness in any of our infected students, we do have a role to play in reducing the spread of the disease in the broader community,” university president Martha E. Pollack wrote in a statement addressing her decision to close campus.
Again, we still don’t know much about Omicron, but preliminary data suggests that although it’s annoyingly contagious, this variant might not be as deadly as previous versions of the virus, especially for the inoculated. That actually checks out, considering that the end of this pandemic will probably look like the virus becoming endemic and less vicious, like the flu, as opposed to disappearing into thin air.
So far, Princeton and New York University have also recently cancelled in person activities. Hopefully, more boosters will slow the spread, but if there’s anything I’ve learned while writing about new COVID variants, it’s that it’s often too soon to tell.