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Due to an unexpected rise in COVID-19 cases, Cornell University has been moved to an increased level of precaution. Credit: Michael Suguitan | The Cornell Daily Sun

Cornell University moved its Ithaca campus to an increased level of precaution following an unexpected rise in COVID-19 cases.

In a statement to the Cornell community, University administrators said that an unpredicted increase in COVID-19 cases on campus prompted a shift to COVID-19 Alert Level Yellow as infected students move to isolation housing and navigate interruptions to their learning.

The rise in cases is likely due to eased masking requirements, the new BA.2 variant, and social activities, according to the University statement.

Cornell's return to Alert Level Yellow arrives shortly after the University lifted masking requirements for most on-campus locations. Cornell had also lifted surveillance testing requirements for vaccinated community members on Feb. 21, the Cornell Daily Sun reported.

The majority of positive cases were from symptomatic testing, indicating there could be more asymptomatic cases within the community, the Cornell Daily Sun reported.

Cornell recommended that students take voluntary steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks at gatherings, staying home if feeling unwell, and using surveillance testing.

“We are all ready for the pandemic to be over, but we must continue to confront the realities of COVID-19 and the impacts that it has on our ability to support the campus community,” the statement read.

As of March 28, the Cornell COVID-19 dashboard reported 462 active cases — up from 391 cases on March 23.

Penn had planned to make a similar masking policy change by making masks optional in classrooms starting March 28, but later paused the policy change following consultations with “student and faculty stakeholders on campus." 

During the week from March 13 to March 19, 132 Penn community members tested positive for COVID-19, an increase from the previous week.