Updated Dec 19, 2021 - Health

Omicron surge pushes elite colleges back into 2020 mode


Harvard campus. Photo: Fan Lin/Xinhua via Getty

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant is forcing colleges and universities to adjust their pandemic policies, with Harvard announcing Saturday that it will go remote for the first three weeks of January in an attempt to stymie the spread on campus.

Why it matters: Omicron is threatening to overturn the new normal as it drives COVID-19 cases to double every 1.5 to 3 days in areas where there is community spread.

  • On Sunday, NIAID director Anthony Fauci warned the variant could see the U.S. hitting record numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the weeks ahead.

The big picture: "We are planning a return to more robust on-campus activities later in January, public health conditions permitting. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on these plans as soon as we are able," Harvard said of its decision.

  • Stanford has decided to move classes online for the first two weeks of the next semester, which begins Jan. 3. In-person classes are set to resume Jan. 18, and all students will be required to receive a booster shot by the end of January, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • Yale administrators announced Saturday that the school will go remote for the remainder of the semester's final exams and encouraged students to leave campus early if possible, the Yale Daily News reported.

Princeton, Cornell and Middlebury have also moved to remote exams while Tulane has given students the option to take exams online, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • New York University has canceled all nonessential gatherings and is encouraging faculty to make exams remote, per CNN.
  • Cornell University is "essentially shutting down its campus" after more than 883 students tested positive for COVID-19, the Journal reported.
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