Planning Your Spring Semester on Campus

Jan. 22, 2021

Dear Cornellians,

As you prepare for the spring semester, please know COVID-19 prevalence continues to rise in the greater Ithaca area just as it has throughout the country. A large number of COVID-19 cases greatly impacts a small community like ours, and cases will likely continue to rise through the spring. As we prepare to welcome you back to the region this weekend, it is crucial that we all continue to do our part to prevent the spread of the virus on campus and in the local community. You can expect that we will be reinforcing the policies and practices established in the fall, and, in some cases, extending our precautions to account for this new, higher level of prevalence.

I am hopeful that we can again complete the semester safely and in person, but in order to do so, we will need your continued full support and even greater diligence. Please take a moment to review the following reminders as well as a few updates:

Behavioral Compact

Adherence to the Behavioral Compact (PDF) is crucial to the success of this semester. As a reminder, in attesting to the Compact, you agreed to abide by Cornell’s travel and visitor policy (PDF), testing program, and other public health guidelines.

  • Travel and visitor policy: Once again, this semester it is expected that all students will remain on campus and in the Ithaca area for the health and safety of our campus and surrounding community. Students who have extenuating circumstances may qualify for a travel exception. New this semester, there will be a more rigorous approval process for any extenuating circumstance that necessitates travel away from the Ithaca area. Those students will need to submit a travel request through the Daily Check for approval. Requests must be submitted at least 48 hours in advance of traveling.
  • Testing reminders: Regardless of vaccination status, prior COVID-19 cases, or antibody detection, all students must continue to complete the Daily Check every day (including weekends), stay compliant with assigned surveillance testing all semester, and continue to follow all other public health guidelines. Students who have remained in Ithaca during the winter break, or who have already arrived, are asked to continue to follow their assigned testing schedule.

    As a reminder, if you are feeling ill, contact Cornell Health for your COVID-19 testing – do not proceed to surveillance testing if you are sick.

  • COVID-19 vaccines: At this time, Cornell is not requiring employees or students to be vaccinated; however, all members of our community are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated when eligible. The most up to date information regarding vaccines, as well as FAQs, can be found here.

Arrival and Move-In

No matter where you might be traveling from, for the safety of our entire community, you are encouraged to self-quarantine for at least one week prior to your arrival in order to further reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus, and to follow all other public health guidance. Starting on January 26, the CDC is requiring international travelers to show proof of negative COVID-19 results prior to arriving in the U.S. All students are responsible for all aspects of their pre-arrival requirements. Financial support for pre-arrival testing costs may be available for qualifying students.

  • On-campus students: Plans are again in place for a phased move-in this semester. Cornell Housing has already communicated your arrival and move-in schedule. Please note that the course of the pandemic, as well as winter weather, can always impact these plans.

    Upon arrival, all on-campus students will go directly to their testing sites. Please continue to monitor your email for messages from Cornell Housing and follow all guidelines for arrival and testing.

  • Off-campus students: Based on the arrival date you recorded in the Spring Checklist, the Daily Check will automatically take you through all arrival testing requirements. If your arrival date changes or is not yet confirmed, you are required to update your arrival information in the Checklist as soon as it is known.

    Please pay careful attention to all Cornell and NYS travel requirements, and remember that you will not have access to campus until both of your arrival tests come back negative (undetected). Additional guidance for your arrival can be found on the COVID site.

Stay Connected

As we did in the fall, we will take things slowly and limit campus activities to only virtual engagement for the time being. There are several virtual events and activities as you return to campus to help keep you engaged and connected to your fellow students.

We had a successful fall semester and I know we can have similar success this spring, but only with all of our continued commitment and leadership. Please note that the information shared above and on the COVID-19 website represents our current campus situation and will continue to evolve as we receive additional guidance from New York state and Tompkins County.

As we approach the start of the semester, and as you settle back into life on campus, keep in mind that many of you will be returning to the area having spent the last few weeks in locations that have different public health guidelines than we have in Ithaca. I wish you all a healthy and successful start to the spring semester, and, for those of you returning to the area, safe travels.


Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life