Epidemiological Modeling

The health of our campus community and the greater Ithaca area were key considerations in Cornell’s plan to invite students to campus for instruction. To guide this decision-making, the university relied on numerous evidence-based sources, including the findings of epidemiological modeling by experts on our faculty.

Mathematical Modeling for Cornell’s Spring Semester

Over the winter break, Cornell's pandemic modeling team updated a mathematical model of the spread of COVID-19 originally developed for the 2020 fall semester. The model was updated to incorporate information on student and employee COVID-19 cases at Cornell during the fall semester; rising prevalence in the Southern Tier and the country as a whole; and the evolution of faster-spreading variants of SARS-CoV-2 from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. Based on this updated model, the team then identified likely scenarios for what might unfold over the spring semester and studied proposed modifications to Cornell's COVID-19 measures. This supported Cornell's preparation for the spring, and showed that modifications to the surveillance testing program, new contact tracing and supplemental testing programs for employees, travel restrictions and other modifications positioned Cornell to address the possible challenges of the spring semester.

Report: Mathematical Modeling for Cornell’s Spring Semester (PDF) (published February 16, 2021)

Mathematical Modeling for Cornell's Fall Semester

In an initial analysis (June 2020), Operations Research and Information Engineering Professor Peter Frazier and partners (the Cornell COVID-19 modeling team) found that residential instruction, when coupled with a robust virus screening program, allows Cornell to provide more thorough safeguards for public health than a fully online semester. Student surveys revealed that a large number of Cornell students would choose to return to Ithaca, even if classes were fully online, and they would live together and socially interact. Offering in-person instruction allows Cornell to impose mandatory virus screening tests and behavioral requirements for students to follow as part of a residential semester.

Report: COVID-19 Mathematical Modeling for Cornell's Fall Semester (PDF) (published June 15, 2020)

Addendum: COVID-19 Mathematical Modeling for Cornell's Fall Semester

The Cornell COVID-19 modeling team updated its analysis in July 2020 after examining feedback on its initial report and in light of the changing progression of the virus nationally. This updated analysis studies numerous alternative parameters, including ways of calculating the number of contacts per day among members of the campus community, the effects of greater numbers of contacts per day, the effects of community members failing to comply with testing and the effect of offering testing to students who are taking classes online only.

Report: Addendum: COVID-19 Mathematical Modeling for Cornell's Fall Semester (PDF) (published July 17, 2020)

Gateway Testing and Quarantine Capacity

Another updated analysis carried out by the Cornell COVID-19 modeling team in August 2020 studied the effectiveness of gateway testing (or “arrival testing”) for addressing the rising prevalence of COVID-19 in parts of the U.S., a potential lack of test access for some Cornell students in their home location, and the requirement that individuals traveling to New York state from states where the COVID-19 prevalence is high must self-quarantine upon arrival.

Report: Gateway Testing and Quarantine Capacity (PDF) (published August 11, 2020)

Update for Assemblywoman Lifton

The following document was prepared by the Cornell COVID-19 modeling team to update New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton on two points of importance: the rise in national COVID-19 cases during the month of July and the projected impact of the Cornell reopening decision on the greater Ithaca community. This follows a broader discussion between President Martha Pollack and Assemblywoman Lifton and reflects questions asked by others.

Report: Update for Assemblywoman Lifton (PDF) (published August 9, 2020)