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N.Y.U. Cancels ‘Non-Essential’ Events Over Virus Surge

New York University announced Wednesday that it was immediately canceling all “nonessential” gatherings and events both on and off campus, including graduations, holiday parties, study groups and athletic competitions, because of surging rates of new coronavirus cases in the community.

“It’s not a cause for alarm, but it is a cause for concern, caution, and appropriate actions,” the university’s provost, Katherine Fleming, said in a memo to the entire university.

New York University is the latest college in the Northeast or Midwest to cancel in-person gatherings as cases of the coronavirus suddenly climb.

Cornell University, which reported 930 positive cases this week alone, including some with the Omicron variant, has put its main campus in Ithaca, N.Y., on its highest alert level, Code Red. Cornell moved final exams online and canceled all in-person events as of Tuesday.

Princeton University in New Jersey has also moved finals online, to enable students to leave for home as soon as possible. Among Princeton’s rising cases are “suspected cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” Jill Dolan, the dean of Princeton College, the university’s undergraduate school, wrote in an email to students on Tuesday, explaining the sudden shift.

The surges are happening at universities with very high vaccination rates. At New York University, 99 percent of students and faculty are vaccinated. So is 97 percent of the on-campus population at Cornell.

Last week, Middlebury College in Vermont moved to remote instruction for the rest of the semester. DePaul University in Chicago and Southern New Hampshire University each said this month that they would switch to all remote instruction, at least for a time, when classes resume in January.

Cases are rising rapidly in the Northeast and remain high in the upper Midwest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that 13 percent of new cases reported in a region composed of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands involved Omicron, which appears to spread more easily among the vaccinated than earlier variants do. In New Jersey, daily reports of new coronavirus cases are up by 90 percent from two weeks ago, on average; in New York State, they are up by 60 percent.

New York City, where New York University is based, is now averaging about 3,100 new positive cases a day, 70 percent more cases a day than two weeks ago, according to city data. Hospitalizations are also rising, though more slowly, in part because of the city’s high rates of vaccination.

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