Increase in COVID-19 cases

Dec. 10, 2021

Dear Ithaca campus community,

Over the past week, there have been 194 new COVID-19 cases reported on the Ithaca campus (Dec. 2-8). This is a significant increase, most notably among our student population, and is directly related to travel over Thanksgiving break and unmasked student social gatherings. The data are deeply concerning as we approach finals and the end of the semester.

As a result, Cornell’s Ithaca campus has moved to COVID-19 Alert Level Yellow. Due to the evolving public health situation, and in an abundance of caution, no university-sponsored student gatherings will be allowed until further notice, and we strongly encourage students to avoid large gatherings off campus. Because these new cases are related to travel and off-campus social events, and not to transmission in an academic setting, exams and other on-campus activities will proceed as planned.

As cases of COVID-19 on our campuses and nationally tick upward amid global concerns about the Omicron variant, we must continue to take necessary steps to keep our communities healthy and safe. Vaccines, boosters and masking reduce the spread and the likelihood of serious infection. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to wear masks indoors, even in small groups, and particularly in crowded spaces.

The majority of positive cases on campus are breakthroughs, affecting fully vaccinated students. To date, there have not been any serious illnesses or hospitalizations, which indicates that vaccines and boosters are working to reduce the severity of infection.

Please do your part, for your own safety and the health of our community. We urge all faculty, staff and students to get booster shots as soon as possible. All individuals 18 years of age or older who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago or a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago are eligible for a booster. Depending on your location, you may reference the Tompkins County Health Department, NYC Vaccine Finder or for more information about booster options and locations.

For many students, it may not be feasible to obtain a booster prior to leaving for winter break. If that is the case, you are strongly encouraged to get one over the break – this will help to further reduce your chances of contracting a breakthrough infection and will help protect others too.

After receiving a booster, all faculty, staff and students should upload proof through the Daily Check. Sharing this vital information helps the university understand the level of protection of our campus community, informing decisions about public health guidance.

While on campus, traveling and when at home, continue to follow public health guidance to minimize exposure and prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask when indoors and in crowded settings. Cornell already has an indoor mask requirement, but starting on Monday, New York state will also require masking in indoor public places.
  • Avoid large gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Adhere to your regular surveillance testing schedule; faculty and staff who are not enrolled in surveillance testing may choose to opt-in.
  • Take advantage of supplemental testing. While at home, seek testing should you be exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if you develop symptoms.
  • When traveling, be sure you understand any COVID-19 requirements (testing, vaccine documentation, etc.), as these may vary depending on location. Wear a mask when on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation. Contracting COVID-19 may delay travel home, so be vigilant by following public health measures.

Students: Be sure to complete your winter/spring checklist before the deadline on Wednesday, December 15. This not only impacts enrollment, but also plays a role in finalizing arrival testing for the spring semester.

Thank you for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our community. Best wishes for the final days of the semester and the holiday season.


Michael Kotlikoff

Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life

Mary Opperman
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer