COVID-19 guidance: Preparing for the fall semester
Dear Ithaca and Geneva colleagues,
We hope that your summer is going well. In just over a month, thousands of students will begin arriving on campus, and we want to take this opportunity to provide you with some important changes to the university’s evolving response to COVID-19. As the pandemic has evolved, it is clear that SARS-CoV-2 is becoming one of many viruses that surrounds us. Even though it is unrealistic to expect that we will be able to eradicate COVID-19 as a disease, given its ease of transmission, there are special precautions that should be taken.
The availability of vaccines and boosters has significantly decreased the extent of severe illnesses and hospitalizations from COVID-19. Antigen testing is now widely available, as are high-quality masks for those who wish to wear one. While these tools have allowed us to ease restrictions, we must respect that each of us has varied levels of concern about the virus. We ask that you continue to take personal responsibility and to demonstrate COVID-19 etiquette. As always, should the CDC, New York state or the Tompkins County Health Department impose new guidelines, we will update our policies and guidelines accordingly.
Vaccinations and Boosters
The university continues to require proof of a primary series of a COVID-19 vaccination or medical/religious exemption for all campus community members. We strongly urge everyone to receive every additional COVID-19 booster that becomes available to them. Please note that the CDC defines up-to-date vaccination as when an individual has received all doses in the primary series and has also received all recommended boosters.
Changes to Our Testing Program After August 31
With broad availability of antigen tests – which are effective at detecting infection at high viral levels, when people are most infectious – Cornell will discontinue its supplemental PCR (nasal/saliva) testing sites on Aug. 31. Antigen tests will continue to be available to all students, faculty and staff who may wish to test following travel, attendance at large gatherings, illness or potential exposure. Additional details on where to pick up antigen tests after Aug. 31 will be provided later this summer on the university’s COVID-19 website.
It is well established that wearing a mask while indoors reduces the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Individuals who are concerned about the risk of infection are encouraged to continue to wear a mask in and around their workplaces, and we ask that all members of our community support and respect one another’s masking choices. The university will continue to provide high-quality masks to all campus community members.
Masks are required in testing centers (through Aug. 31), campus healthcare facilities, and when riding public transit. Additionally, anyone who is recovering from COVID-19 and is no longer required to isolate must continue to mask when with others according to CDC guidance.
Masks will be strongly encouraged, but are not required, in classrooms, providing more protection for vulnerable students, faculty and staff. As classroom conditions and individuals’ vulnerabilities vary markedly, we are also asking students to respect requests from instructors to wear a mask.
Employee Guidance for Testing Positive and Close Contacts
Employees experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay at home and get tested immediately by taking an antigen test or contacting your primary care physician. You can also find PCR testing facilities in your area by visiting state and local health department websites.
New York state requires that all employees complete the Daily Check health assessment if they are symptomatic. Positive test results should be uploaded to the Daily Check, and you should notify your immediate supervisor if you are ill and need time away from work.
Today, all students and parents of undergraduate students received a message detailing COVID-related guidance for the start of the academic year, including pre-arrival testing and additional changes to on-campus quarantine and isolation guidelines. A copy of that message can be found on the university’s COVID-19 response website.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. As we continue to manage the effects of the pandemic, let us act with care and respect toward one another. Together we are learning to live with COVID-19 and minimize its impact on our community.
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer