COVID rapidly spreads at Cornell despite 95% vaccination rate

Cornell University aggressively pushed its students to get vaccinated, announcing a vaccine mandate for the 2021-22 academic year in April, resulting in 95 percent of the campus population, both students and faculty, being vaccinated.

Now Cornell University has more than five times the amount of confirmed positive cases during its first week of this academic year than it did during its first week of the 2020-21 academic year, according to the Cornell COVID dashboard.

During the first week of school (Aug. 27 to Sept. 2), Cornell reported 322 positive COVID-19 cases.

The positivity rate is sitting 1.14% and there were 52 positive cases on Sept. 1 alone. The school is operating at alert level yellow: moderate risk.

“We’re in a very different position now than we were in the last year, facing decisions that are in many ways even more complex,” university president Martha Pollack said in a letter to the university community.

Pollack said none of the students who have tested positive so far this semester have been seriously ill and none have been hospitalized.

The county’s public health director Frank Kruppa said the vast majority of the vaccinated people who become infected with the disease are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms.

Pollack said students and faculty have “clearly said that they want to return to in-person instruction, and we have been looking forward for many months to a vibrant, fully active fall.”

She added that the school will continue its testing program to gather data and monitor active cases and close contacts.

“That will certainly mean significant stress on our community as we manage and support large numbers of students in isolation, but it may be the only way to balance our goal of providing in-person education with keeping the community as healthy as possible,” she said.

The final and worst outcome would be a continued rise in infections to the point that the university no longer has the capacity to support isolation, or to where there is a significant level of transmission in the classroom or other campus settings.

“Should we reach that point, we would need to implement additional restrictions, up to and including having all students quarantine in place and moving all courses online, or even shutting the campus down as we did in March of 2020,” Pollack said.

photo/Production Perig

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