COVID-19 update for Cornell staff

March 13, 2020

Dear colleagues,

I am writing to follow up on today’s message from President Pollack and share more about what these latest decisions mean for our Cornell staff. The health and wellbeing of our workforce is of utmost importance to us during these changing and challenging times.

The university remains open as research, student support, faculty support and all other campus operations continue, though some in a modified capacity. What is changing is how some of our work gets done. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance recommends that we all practice social distancing. In order to do that effectively while keeping the campuses operating, it is important that we activate remote work arrangements for those whose work can be done from an off-campus location.

Between now and next Friday, March 20th, campus leaders will be completing their business continuity staffing plans and these plans will identify the work that can be done remotely. We expect that staff whose work has been identified for remote work will transition no later than March 20th; however, there are some operations, such as student services and support for faculty online instruction, where the needs for on-campus support may evolve over time. If you have questions about your own work location and expectations, please contact your supervisor or local HR representative. College and university leadership will continue to monitor local and national public health guidance and we will provide regular updates to you regarding the duration of these work arrangements.

I have heard from some staff who are concerned about their own job security. College and unit leaders share President Pollack’s commitment to getting through this extraordinary time with as little disruption to our workforce as possible. There is much we simply do not know about this public health situation, and actions that are taken out of an abundance of caution can sometimes feel very stressful. Please know that we are doing our very best to support you through these challenging times.

You will find a wealth of information on the COVID-19 Employee Guidance site. Some things to point out:

  • Because some K-12 schools have begun to close for short periods of time, we are permitting the use of Health and Personal (HAP) leave for staff to use for childcare even though their child is not sick. This is an exception to standard policy.
  • In addition, we will be adding 10 Health and Personal (HAP) days* (pro-rated as appropriate for part-time staff) to the banks of all of our regular full and part-time, exempt and non-exempt staff, including benefits-eligible temporary staff, who are not currently at their maximum. These days can be used for personal health situations or to care for children or other dependents.

*or Sick Leave days for staff whose collective bargaining agreements contain Sick Leave provisions

  • If you find yourself out of work to care for someone in your family, New York State Paid Family Leave is available to staff. You can find more information on the COVID-19 Employee Guidance site.
  • Coverage is now available for telemedicine through our health plans. More information can be found at the Resources page.

I want to acknowledge the resilience you have shown during this unprecedented time. I am so grateful to have you all as colleagues. Please take care of yourselves and each other.


Mary Opperman,
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer