Provost Michael Kotlikoff issued the following statement Jan. 15:
This evening, the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) issued a press release alerting the local community that B.1.1.7, the new, highly contagious “UK variant” of COVID-19, has been identified in Tompkins County. The positive test was sequenced through Cornell’s COVID-19 testing lab as part of that lab’s testing services for Cayuga Health System and the region. According to TCHD, the individual, who is unaffiliated with Cornell, entered quarantine immediately following return from travel and is now in isolation. A contact investigation has been completed and no close contacts were identified.
The new variant was first identified in the United Kingdom in September 2020 and has since been found in other regions of the U.S., so it is not surprising that it would be found here as well. At this time, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. However, it is more easily spread from person to person.
We are encouraged that the traveler followed New York state requirements to quarantine upon arrival and to seek testing. This shows that the process of identifying those who may be carrying the virus is working, and serves as an important reminder for all Cornell faculty, staff and students to strictly adhere to all required testing and quarantine protocols.
Compliance with arrival testing, the Daily Check health assessment and ongoing surveillance testing for faculty, staff and students approved to live, work and learn on campus, remains a critical element in keeping our campus community safe.
Again, because the new variant does spread so easily, the most important thing that each of us can do is to continue to follow established public health guidance: wear a face mask, practice physical distancing, wash hands frequently, stay at home if you are ill, refrain from unnecessary travel and avoid large groups.