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A significant rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns over the fast-spreading Omicron variant is forcing at least four more colleges and universities to move the last days of the fall semester online — including final exams.
The Omicron variant of coronavirus has now been identified in at least 32 states, with experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci saying it is likely to become the dominant strain in the US. Scientists say they believe Omicron is more contagious, but so far has led to less severe illness.
Princeton University announced Wednesday it is shifting all undergraduate final exams to a remote format "so that students will be able to leave campus at their earliest convenience," according to a post on the school's website.
All indoor gatherings where face coverings can't be worn also must be canceled or postponed through Jan. 7, 2022, according to Princeton's message.
Also on Wednesday, New York University said in an email to students posted on its website that it is canceling all non-academic, non-essential gatherings because of a "considerable acceleration" in Covid-19 cases.
On Tuesday, Cornell University reported 903 cases of Covid-19 among students between Dec. 7 to 13, and a "very high percentage" of them are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated individuals, according to university officials.
In the email, New York University Provost Katherine Fleming said faculty were "strongly" encouraged to change final exams to remote or online formats.
"The continuous review of the data from our COVID-19 testing program has indicated a considerable acceleration in the rate of new cases in our community," Fleming wrote. "It's not a cause for alarm, but it is a cause for concern, caution, and appropriate actions."
The use of residence hall lounges, common and meeting spaces, in addition to athletic and recreational facilities are also suspended. NYU also announced that all students will be required to upload proof of a COVID-19 booster shot by January 18, 2022.
Middlebury College in Vermont announced this week that finals would be held remotely and all in-person indoor events are postponed or canceled after a rise in COVID-19 cases on campus.
All Middlebury College students, faculty, and staff will also be required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot by Feb. 14, 2022.
Earlier this month, DePaul University in Chicago and Southern New Hampshire University announced they will start the Spring 2022 semester with two weeks of remote learning in January, in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19 following the holiday break.