Guidance for remote employees to resume on-campus work

May 17, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

As we approach the end of the academic year, we want to congratulate everyone for a job well done. Cornell’s COVID-19 guidelines and testing procedures, as well as the efforts of our campus community, have resulted in a remarkably low infection rate on our campus. At the same time, the vaccination rates among faculty, staff and students have increased markedly, and with the decrease in density of the campus following the academic semester we will modify several COVID-related campus procedures beginning June 1. These new procedures will more closely match New York state’s COVID-19 guidelines, and we expect our guidelines to continue to evolve as the state guidelines change.

Although the semester is ending, it is critical that we maintain current procedures and remain vigilant. For example, while it is encouraging that the CDC has recently announced that vaccinated people can go mask-less in most places, at this time all individuals on the Cornell campus are still required to wear a mask indoors and maintain 6-foot physical distance with others, regardless of vaccination status. We are closely monitoring New York state regulations and anticipate that the university will be able to adjust these indoor masking and distancing requirements after June 1, once New York state determines how it will implement the CDC’s new guidance. Outdoors, fully vaccinated individuals are not required to wear a mask when meeting as part of a small group (10 people or fewer). However, unvaccinated students, faculty and staff must continue to wear a mask outdoors when physical distancing is not feasible.

Beginning June 1, offices will be allowed to increase capacity to the limitations of physical distancing (6-foot separation) and will no longer be required to submit occupancy plans for central approval. As noted, we expect to modify this requirement for vaccinated individuals after June 1 as New York state guidelines evolve to reflect current CDC recommendations. However, with the increase in capacity, we anticipate that many of our faculty and staff who have been primarily working remotely will begin to return to campus.

Also beginning June 1, surveillance testing will not be required for any vaccinated students, staff and faculty, and vaccinated individuals will not be required to be tested or undergo temporary quarantine following domestic travel. Supplemental testing will still be available as needed, and surveillance testing will remain required for unvaccinated students, staff and faculty.

With regard to campus repopulation, over the coming weeks, each college or unit will make a final determination on the unit’s overall work plans, in accordance with university principles that have recently been established. It is important that you connect with your supervisor and familiarize yourself with all on-campus guidance before making any changes to your work schedule. Looking ahead to the next academic year, pending the course of the pandemic, New York state guidance and campus community vaccination rates, we anticipate that Cornell will return to in-person teaching for most, if not all, classes. If you have questions related to fall 2021 repopulation for your college or unit, reach out to your HR representative.

It is understandable that some employees who have been working remotely may be hesitant to return to the office; however, please know that thousands of your colleagues have been safely working on campus since the start of the pandemic with little to no transmission of the virus. The safety measures we have put into place have been highly effective. We have seen no viral transmission in the classroom and, with our robust testing program, prevalence of the virus on campus is now exceedingly low. Please remember, however, that the most highly effective ways to break the transmission chain of COVID-19 are within our individual power: getting vaccinated (i.e., Johnson & Johnson walk-in clinic, Tuesday, May 18) and following public health guidance (i.e., wearing a mask and physical distancing, when appropriate, and good hygiene).

We will hold a town hall on Thursday, May 20, to further discuss New York state and Cornell’s evolving guidelines and to help answer questions about repopulating campus. Questions may be submitted in advance via this Qualtrics survey.

COVID-19 Faculty and Staff Town Hall

Thursday, May 20, 12-1 p.m.
Webinar ID: 982 7835 7713
Passcode: 2465

Again, thank you for your hard work and attention to ever-evolving public health guidelines that have enabled us to have such a successful year.


Michael Kotlikoff

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer