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Cornell cancels basketball game because of rising COVID-19 cases

Cornell University’s president assigned the Ithaca school to “Alert Level Red” because of an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus.

The designation led to a number of cancellations at Cornell, including a men’s home basketball game on Sunday against Bryant. The Big Red is scheduled to play Syracuse on Tuesday in the Carrier Dome. A Cornell athletic department spokesman said Tuesday the game, right now, is not in jeopardy.

“At this point, there’s been no discussion on cancelling beyond Sunday’s game here on campus,” said Jeremy Hartigan, Cornell’s Associate Director of Athletics for Communications. “It’s an on-campus, student-driven outbreak. The main conversation at this point is ‘How do we stop the spread as quickly as possible?’ And it was to not allow visitors, not allow gatherings. They’re cancelling commencement on Saturday, so certainly basketball games are not going to be played. But there’s not been any talk at this point about anything beyond that.”

And while Hartigan expects to be in the Carrier Dome Tuesday to watch a Cornell-Syracuse basketball game, he acknowledged there are no certainties about what might happen going forward. Cornell’s basketball team, at this point, is practicing. The game likely won’t be impacted unless there are positive test results among team members.

Cornell president Martha E. Pollack announced Tuesday the school would impose stricter COVID restrictions after analyzing results from an increasing level of positive COVID-19 tests among students. The Omicron variant, believed to be more contagious than the Delta variant that caused a spike in COVID cases in the United States, was discovered in those samples.

“Our surveillance testing has continued to identify the rapid spread of COVID-19 among our student population,” she said in a news release. “While faculty and staff case numbers currently remain low, just last evening our COVID-19 testing lab team identified evidence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in a significant number of Monday’s positive student samples. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, the university is moving to Alert Level Red.”

Cornell moved all of its final exams online as of noon Tuesday. It has canceled a Saturday commencement for December graduates, closed its libraries and canceled athletic contests scheduled for Sunday.

The Cornell-Syracuse basketball game packs intriguing story lines this year.

Jimmy Boeheim played for the Big Red for three seasons before COVID shut down his senior season and allowed him to play one final college basketball campaign for his dad in his Syracuse hometown. And Cornell is 8-2 this year after missing the entire 2020-21 season because of an Ivy League-mandated cancellation.