Princeton, other colleges shifting classes and holding finals online due to Covid-19 increase

Princeton University announced Wednesday it is shifting undergraduate final exams to a remote format.

By Paul P. Murphy, Nora Neus and Elizabeth Stuart, CNN

(CNN) -- 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.

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 January 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 December 7-13, and a "very high percentage" of them are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated individuals, according to university officials.

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.

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.

"We received confirmation since our last update of 18 new cases of COVID-19 among students on campus, and one new employee case, for a total of 68 active student cases and two active employee cases," an announcement from the college said Monday.

All Middlebury College students, faculty and staff will also be required to receive a Covid-19 booster shot by February 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 spread of Covid-19 following the holiday break.

"DePaul is fully committed to in-person learning. This measure -- combined with our adherence to local, state and federal COVID-19 guidance -- will help us cautiously start winter quarter so we can sustain a robust college experience the remainder of the academic year," a letter from university leaders said.

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