Important COVID-19 updates for faculty and staff

August 6, 2021

Dear Cornell faculty and staff,

Cornell is taking a number of steps to address the spread of the delta variant and the increased prevalence of COVID-19 on our campus and in our region. Earlier this week, the university sent a message to all students outlining the public health measures that will be in place for the start of the academic year. This is in addition to the updated indoor masking guidance shared with the full campus community last week.

We are seeing strong compliance with the student vaccination mandate. Similarly, the vast majority of our faculty and staff have already received and submitted proof of vaccination. These are essential steps to slow the spread of the virus and to keep our on-campus and surrounding communities healthy, and we urge any of you who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

To further bolster these efforts, we are putting in place the following measures for all faculty and staff on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses.

Mandatory vaccination or surveillance testing of all Cornell employees

All faculty and staff must either be fully vaccinated with an FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccine and submit proof of vaccination to the Daily Check or participate in surveillance testing twice each week and comply with mask wearing requirements for the unvaccinated. (Currently, unvaccinated employees working on campus are required to participate in weekly surveillance testing, and will continue to do so until Cornell shifts to the twice weekly requirement later this month.)

Unvaccinated employees in the twice weekly surveillance program will be given time off to be tested; continue to check your Daily Check portal for updates on testing requirements and to view your assigned testing days. If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have not yet uploaded your proof of vaccination, please do so today. Failure to complete the vaccine registry will result in automatic registration in the mandatory surveillance testing and masking requirements applied to unvaccinated employees and will be documented as a violation of university policy. For all positions that include an on-campus presence, failure to submit proof of vaccination upon vaccination and/or failure to adhere to the surveillance testing and masking requirements may result in formal disciplinary action, loss of on-campus privileges and may impact your employment status. All unvaccinated students are also required to participate in surveillance testing.

At Cornell Tech, all students, regardless of vaccination status, as well as unvaccinated faculty and staff, will participate in weekly surveillance testing.

Near-term surveillance testing for select vaccinated populations

Although vaccination is highly effective in protecting against serious disease, we have seen that the increased infectivity of the Delta variant can result in virus transmission to fully vaccinated individuals, albeit uncommonly (breakthrough infections). It is not yet clear the extent to which vaccinated individuals, if infected, may transmit SARS-CoV-2.

In order to understand and control the prevalence of infection among our vaccinated population, we will surveil vaccinated members of our community. This process of detection and isolation of asymptomatic virus carriers was the bulwark of the strategy that kept our infection rate so low during our past fall and spring semesters.

Accordingly, all vaccinated undergraduate and professional students will be entered into our surveillance program. Similarly, the university will also require some vaccinated faculty and staff on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses whose positions require interactions with many other members of the community to participate in weekly surveillance testing at the start of the semester. We are currently determining which positions will be placed into mandatory weekly testing. While this may be unexpected news, we are committed to following the science and plan to discontinue this measure for fully vaccinated individuals once we are confident in low virus prevalence on campus.

As has been the case, supplemental testing will remain available for all faculty, staff and students at their discretion. Supplemental testing does not fulfill surveillance testing requirements.

Updating your status in Daily Check

Anyone who is currently, or plans to start, working on campus must update their on-campus status in Daily Check. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your supervisor or local Human Resources representative.

As noted earlier this year, it is no longer necessary to complete the Daily Check health assessment each day before coming to campus. However, anyone who is feeling ill should stay at home and contact their primary care provider.

There is a town hall for faculty and staff on Wednesday, Aug. 11, from 12-1 p.m. to further review our plans for the fall semester (details below). If you are unable to attend, a recording will be available to view on the university’s COVID-19 website.

Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We will share additional guidance as we monitor infection rates through the beginning of the fall semester.


Michael Kotlikoff

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Faculty and Staff Town Hall
Wednesday, Aug. 11, 12-1 p.m.

Please join the webinar via the following: