Preparing for a successful start to the fall semester

August 3, 2021

Dear Students,

We hope that you are enjoying a happy, healthy and restful summer, and look forward to welcoming you to campus in just a few short weeks. We write today to share important information on preparing for your arrival and what to expect this fall. As we respond to recent increases in the prevalence of SARS-CoV-19 (delta variant) infection, we are establishing campus policies that we believe will facilitate safe conditions for in-person learning and social activity, as described below. Please be advised that this guidance could change pending the course of the pandemic, especially as it relates to spread of highly infectious virus variants.

Fall Checklist and Personal Responsibilities

Cornell will again require all students to complete the Fall Checklist, submitting arrival date, contact information and address for the fall semester. The checklist will go live on August 4 and all students – undergraduate, graduate and professional – must complete the checklist no later than August 10 (via the Daily Check). Failure to do so will result in an enrollment hold starting on August 11.

Vaccination Mandate

As previously announced, Cornell will require COVID-19 vaccination for students returning to the Ithaca, Geneva and Cornell Tech campuses for the Fall 2021 semester. Students must submit proof of vaccination by Monday, August 16 (via the Daily Check). Please do not wait until the deadline to submit your proof of vaccination. We have also imposed a mandate that all university employees are either vaccinated, or participate in regular surveillance testing and wear masks indoors. We have seen an overwhelming response of our community to the need to be vaccinated, and progress can be viewed on our daily dashboard.

Vaccination Clinics and Appointments

Students should get vaccinated before arriving on campus. Those who are unable to get vaccinated prior to their arrival, or whose vaccination is not recognized by Cornell, will be expected to be vaccinated as soon as possible after arriving on campus.

Cornell Health is offering on-campus vaccination clinics on Aug. 19, 20, 21 and 25. You may find detailed information on Cornell Health’s website. Students already in the Ithaca area can make an appointment to receive their vaccination by calling Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 during regular business hours.

Arrival and Surveillance Testing

Over the summer, we’ve learned a lot about infections linked to the delta variant, both nationally and globally. Like you, we’ve been deeply concerned to see the increase in infections and disease occurring in many unvaccinated individuals associated with rapid spread of this virus strain. It is also becoming increasingly clear that vaccinated people, while much better protected from severe COVID-19 illness and death than unvaccinated people, may be able to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others, if infected, even without signs of illness, known as breakthrough cases. If not controlled, these cases, which result from the increased infectivity of the delta variant and the reduced protection from infection by this variant afforded by approved vaccines, comprise a risk to unvaccinated and other vulnerable members of our community.

It is extremely encouraging to see that so many of you have already taken the important public health step of becoming vaccinated against COVID-19. However, we also know that not all students will be able to be fully vaccinated when they arrive on campus this August, and that some students, staff and faculty may be unable to be vaccinated for health or other reasons. Given the potential for spread of the delta variant in our community, including the possibility of breakthrough cases, the university will take the following actions.

  • Arrival Testing: Arrival testing is required for all students who are not fully vaccinated. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their second dose for a 2-dose vaccine or 14 days after a 1-dose vaccine. Unvaccinated students must complete an arrival test as soon as possible upon arriving in Ithaca and before moving into their on-campus residence.

    Arrival testing for fully vaccinated students may be required at the sole discretion of the university based on prevailing circumstances, but there is no requirement to do so at this time.

  • Surveillance Testing: As previously shared, all unvaccinated students (and those not yet fully vaccinated) are required to participate in regular surveillance testing until fully vaccinated, or continually if a student has an approved medical or religious exemption.

    In addition, given our evolving understanding of the delta variant, all vaccinated undergraduate students, as well as students enrolled in Cornell’s three professional schools (CVM, Law, Johnson), will initially be required to participate in some level of surveillance testing for a period of time necessary to determine the prevalence on campus when students return. The frequency and dates of your surveillance testing will be displayed in your Daily Check portal. We plan to discontinue this step for vaccinated individuals as soon as we are confident of low virus prevalence on campus.

Please note: Students who are required to participate in surveillance testing will automatically be enrolled in the program following completion of the fall checklist, based on their arrival date. Students who are currently in the Ithaca area, or those who plan to arrive prior to orientation or the first day of classes, will begin surveillance testing prior to the start of the academic year.

Indoor Masking

As noted in Friday’s campus message, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask when inside public areas of campus buildings or facilities. When indoors, all faculty, staff, students and visitors must remain masked, unless in a private space or when eating. While we hope that the indoor masking measure will be temporary, we will continue to follow guidance from the Tompkins County Health Department.

In-person Learning

In general, fall 2021 classes will not offer a remote option and will not be recorded. We strongly urge all students to arrive on campus before the first day of classes to prepare for this planned return to in-person learning. If you face extenuating circumstances that may prevent you from doing so, please contact your college student services office to determine whether it may be possible for you to keep up with coursework until you arrive. The last day to arrive on campus is September 9.

Student and Parent Forum

Please join us for a Student and Parent/Families Forum on August 4 at 3:30 p.m. where we will provide additional updates on what to expect for fall as well as answer some of your questions. Please note this forum will be recorded and available on for those who are unable to attend live.

We appreciate your continued attention to these important public health measures necessitated by the pandemic as we plan for a successful start to the fall semester and look forward to seeing you back on campus in the coming weeks.


Mike Kotlikoff

Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life