Coronavirus updates: Cornell University suspends, bans students over growing cluster of cases

The university made the decision following a rise in positive cases.

A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 866,000 people worldwide.

Over 26.2 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The criteria for diagnosis -- through clinical means or a lab test -- has varied from country-to-country. Still, the actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks.

The United States is the worst-affected country, with more than 6.1 million diagnosed cases and at least 186,754 deaths.

California has the most cases of any U.S. state, with more than 724,000 people diagnosed, according to Johns Hopkins data. California is followed by Texas and Florida, with over 644,000 cases and over 637,000 cases, respectively.

Nearly 170 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 are being tracked by the World Health Organization, six of which are in crucial phase 3 trials.

Cornell suspends, bans students over growing cluster of cases

Cornell University said Thursday it has suspended and banned students from campus after finding a cluster of at least 39 COVID-19 cases traced to gatherings where students did not wear masks or observe social distancing.

In a sternly worded statement, school officials said that the local health department identified 39 cases in the past six days tied to the gatherings. Most of those cases -- 36 -- were among student athletes.

"While these clusters represent approximately only 0.1% of our campus population, and a very small percentage of our student athletes, it points to a dangerous disregard by a group of students for the behavioral guidelines that we established to protect the public health of our community," Provost Mike Kotlikoff and Vice President of Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi said in the statement.

All of the infected students are in isolation, and their contacts are being quarantined, officials said. The situation is still "manageable," but they warned that "there is the potential for just a few small student gatherings to destroy all our plans for an in-person semester."

"The rapid growth of cases in these recent clusters puts us perilously close to needing to take drastic action, such as moving to wholly online classes for a period of time," the officials said.

Due to the "irresponsible behavior and disregard for others in our community," students have been suspended and banned from campus, the school said, though did not provide more details on those sanctions.

Also due to the outbreak, Cornell is limiting all student gatherings to 10 people, down from fewer than 30.

The Ithaca, New York, campus has had 70 cases of COVID-19 since Feb. 20, according to school data.

Indiana University advises Greek house residents to look elsewhere for housing

Due to an "alarming increase" in positivity rates among students in fraternity and sorority housing, Indiana University has recommended that students living in Greek houses find alternate arrangements.

Testing positivity rates in some houses at its flagship campus in Bloomington are over 50%, the university said due to positive COVID-19 cases.

"Because they are in such close quarters, physical distancing is really not possible," university spokesperson Chuck Carney said in a statement.

Since the houses are not owned by the university, it's up to the fraternities and sororities on how to proceed, he said, adding that school officials have stressed the living spaces are unsafe "given the pandemic conditions and current spread of COVID-19."

Several school public health experts have advised temporarily closing Greek houses "to prevent worsening rates in both the Greek and non-Greek population."

As of Monday, testing results in residence hall spaces were about 1.5% positive, compared to more than 8% for Greek houses, the university said. Nearly 2,600 students -- about 6% of the campus population -- live in Greek houses.

CDC forecasts as many as 211K deaths by end of September

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.S. should anticipate between 200,000 and 211,000 total reported COVID-19 deaths by Sept. 26.

Its weekly national ensemble forecast also predicts that weekly reports of new COVID-19 deaths may decrease nationally over the next four weeks, with 3,300 to 7,500 new deaths reported during the week ending Sept. 26.

Past CDC predictions have been on track. On Aug. 13, the agency predicted between 180,000 and 200,000 deaths by this Labor Day weekend. The U.S. has experienced more than 186,000 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.

SUNY Oneonta students sent home for rest of fall semester

The State University of New York at Oneonta will send all of its on-campus students home and suspend all in-person classes and activities for the rest of the fall semester, the school announced on Thursday.

The college was in the midst of its two-week “pause” period, which began Aug. 30, where the focus was on testing and limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

An increase in confirmed cases -- 389 since the start of the semester on Aug. 24 -- caused the college to make the determination to cease in-person learning.

"While this is sudden news and something no one wanted, the risk to our campus and Oneonta community is too great. I know the vast majority of our students have been diligent in protecting our campus since day one," president of the school, Barbara Jean Morris, said in a statement. "We committed to do everything we could to mitigate this situation, and today, that means ending residential housing for this semester."

Students who have tested negative will be asked to leave on-campus housing by next Monday. Those who wish to remain on campus will be given an opportunity to request permission to stay.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an appearance on NBC's Today Show on Wednesday that sending students home after an outbreak is the "worst thing you could do."

"Keep them at the university in a place that's sequestered enough from the other students, but don't have them go home because they could be spreading it in their home state," he said.

Temple University suspends in-person learning for fall semester amid rise in cases

Temple University announced on Thursday it will now have virtual learning for the entire fall semester after a rise in cases among students at the school.

"In light of the recent increase in positive test results among our students, and after consultation with our own healthcare professionals and leaders at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, we have concluded that the data indicate it is time to pivot to primarily online education," university President Richard Englert said in a statement.

Only "essential in-person teaching" at the university's domestic campuses will continue for the rest of the fall semester -- this applies only to courses where "educational objectives" cannot be reached without some in-person instruction.

The university estimated that 95% of classes would become virtual.

Any student that is using university housing and chooses to leave by Sept. 13 will be given a full refund for housing and meal plan charges for the semester. Students who wish to remain in university housing may do so, the school said.