COVID-19 cluster identified on the Ithaca campus

Aug. 29, 2020

Members of the Cornell Community,

The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) has identified a cluster of nine, new positive COVID-19 cases within our student body related to several small gatherings over the past week where social distancing and mask wearing were not adhered to. A COVID-19 cluster is defined as five or more connected cases.

The students are in isolation and receiving proper care. Due to privacy laws, neither the TCHD nor Cornell are able to disclose the names of individuals. The health department is conducting contact tracing to ascertain whether these students may have transmitted the virus to others. For COVID-19, New York State Department of Health defines a close contact as any individual who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 10 minutes starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

As I reminded students in a message Friday afternoon, now is not the time to test boundaries. All students are required to abide by the Behavioral Compact, which limits the size of gatherings, and requires students to wear face masks and practice physical distancing while doing so.

Remember that a negative test result represents a single moment in time. Students who have had multiple negative results can easily become infected. When mask wearing and physical distancing are not practiced, even in small gatherings, infection can quickly spread among friend groups.

While I strongly encourage everyone to lead by example, non-compliance should be reported if necessary. We have already placed some students on temporary suspension for reported violations of the Behavioral Compact. This is not our desired outcome, but as I stated yesterday, we will not hesitate to do so if the safety of our community is jeopardized.

Students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or believe they may have been exposed, should immediately contact Cornell Health at 607-255-5155. Faculty or staff who are experiencing symptoms should seek care from their health care provider.

Please visit the Cornell’s COVID-19 website for additional information related to prevention and care. The website also includes the university’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard, which is updated Monday-Friday to include information about testing and positive cases within the campus community.


Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life

This message was sent to the campus community pursuant to the university’s emergency response procedures and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act.