Impact of students’ testing non-compliance and positive cases on your classes

March 31, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

We continue to see patterns of relaxed adherence to essential masking and physical-distancing measures, as well as testing non-compliance among a subset of our students, despite the fact that our campus is in Alert Level Yellow status. We write to you today to tell you about enhanced Behavioral Compact enforcement mechanisms that will take effect tomorrow that may impact students enrolled in your classes, and to explain what happens when a student who is enrolled in an in-person or hybrid class tests positive for COVID-19.

New Student Behavioral Compact Non-Compliance Restrictions

Yesterday, all Ithaca undergraduate, graduate and professional students were notified that if they do not complete their assigned surveillance test within the one-day grace period after their assigned test day, they will face an enrollment hold and be restricted from:

  • Access to Canvas for their enrolled courses, which means that students will be blocked from downloading course materials, submitting assignments or taking exams. Here’s what you need to know:
    • Students have been informed that because their access will be disabled due to non-compliance with the Behavioral Compact, faculty must not provide students with course materials, offer make-up exams, or grant extensions for missed assignment deadlines.
    • Please do not accept informal proof of compliance. Faculty cannot reactivate a student in Canvas and may not add an inactive student into their course. Students simply must get tested to be reinstated in Canvas. Consistency across faculty is critical for this to be optimally effective in ensuring testing compliance to protect the health and safety of our community.
    • You can check whether a student is out of compliance, as they will be marked “inactive” in the course People tab. Inactive students will still appear in the gradebook; you can access and grade assignments/tests, and their submissions will be included in grade calculations. Please note, inactive students will not receive Canvas announcements from instructors.
    • Restoration of student access to Canvas, campus Wi-Fi networks, and campus facilities will not be immediate. System updates can take between 12-24 hours, during which the enrollment hold will remain in place.
  • Dropping a course or changing their grading option. If this hold occurs over the April 5 drop deadline (or April 26 for the second 7-week session), there is no guarantee that the student’s college or school will approve a late drop or grade option change. Students with active enrollment holds at the time of pre-enrollment (currently scheduled to take place during the first half of May) will be unable to pre-enroll for fall ’21 courses.
  • Access to campus Wi-Fi networks. Access to campus Wi-Fi and residential wired networks will be revoked. However, students will continue to be able to access Cornell Health, Cayuga Health System, Daily Check and submit a help ticket.
  • Access to campus facilities, including academic buildings, libraries and study spaces.

The only way for students to have these restrictions lifted is to complete a surveillance test immediately by scheduling a testing appointment through Daily Check. When a student misses their test, they are sent a text and email reminder with instructions on how to comply. Students experiencing physical or mental health issues that prevent them from completing these requirements should contact Cornell Health immediately at (607) 255-5155.

Academic protocol for COVID-19 cases associated with in-person class attendance

If, through the process of contact tracing, the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) and Cornell Health learn that a student who has tested positive for COVID-19 attended an in-person class meeting during their period of infectivity, we – Vice Provost Lisa Nishii and Dr. Anne Jones, Medical Director of Cornell Health – do the following:

  • Email the instructor(s) of the class to notify them about the case, even when the potential opportunity for classroom exposure is believed to be extremely small;
  • Meet directly with the instructional team to ensure they feel supported by the university and can get immediate answers to any questions they may have about health and public safety concerns, what to communicate with students, and whether to make modifications to their planned academic activities;
  • Collect additional information about the activities that took place during the class meeting(s) in question to assess potential risks of exposure and guide instructors in determining appropriate next steps for their classes and/or other academic activities in their program;
  • Follow-up with a communication to students in the class to inform them about the potential opportunity for exposure and encourage (or sometimes require) them to participate in adaptive testing; and
  • Provide updates to the relevant college deans.

We have learned a great deal from the dozens of meetings we have held with faculty and college leaders and would like to share the following reminders:

  • Faculty sometimes hear about positive cases directly from students or through Student Disability Services, but not from us. This means that we do not have a record of the student having mentioned attending the class during their period of infectivity. We ask that you do not take action – such as sharing the news with the rest of the class or with your colleagues, changing the instruction mode of your class, temporarily closing facilities, or trying to help with contact tracing – unless you hear directly from us and we discuss these actions with you. You can also reach out directly to us if you would like guidance on a specific situation or occurrence in your class.
  • We have heard of more instances where students move within six feet of each other to engage in small group discussions. Please leverage CTI’s tips for maintaining physical distancing for small group work.
  • Face shields in lieu of masks for live instruction are no longer permitted.

What you can do to help

Please encourage students to cooperate with the public health process by answering calls from Cornell Health or TCHD and do what they are asked to do, including getting tested and entering mandatory quarantine or isolation. Remind them that defying contact tracing requirements does not protect anyone; it increases risks for everyone. They might benefit from being reminded that they will not get in trouble for information they share with Cornell Health because it is HIPAA-protected. The staff at Cornell Health care about students’ wellbeing and are doing their best to help them, and as frontline healthcare professionals, they require cooperation and partnership from students to best serve the needs of students and the community.

Thank you for your continued efforts to provide excellent instruction and mentorship to our students and for doing your part to keep our campus and Ithaca community safe. We encourage you to share this message with your instructional team.


Lisa H. Nishii
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Anne Jones
Medical Director, Cornell Health and COVID Public Health Officer