COVID-19: Preparing for the fall semester
Dear Ithaca and Geneva students,
We hope that you are having a relaxing summer. As we look ahead to the start of the fall semester, we want to provide some important updates about 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.
Pre-Arrival Testing for Students
Before arriving in Ithaca or Geneva for the fall semester, all students should take an at-home antigen test. These tests are widely available at most retail locations and should be taken as close to your departure date as possible. If you test positive, report your result to the Daily Check and consult the CDC guidance for isolation requirements. Do not travel until your isolation period has ended.
Students who test negative through their at-home antigen test should test again within a few days of arriving in the Ithaca or Geneva area. Graduate and professional students who remained in the area over the summer are encouraged to take an antigen test before resuming classes or research. Antigen tests will be available for pickup at several on-campus locations during the arrival period.
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. Cornell Health will continue to offer PCR tests for symptomatic students who meet the clinical testing criteria. 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, and we ask that all members of our community support and respect one another’s masking choices.
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. Classroom conditions vary markedly, as do individuals’ vulnerabilities. We ask that you consider and respect the vulnerabilities of others by wearing a mask in the classroom if requested by an instructor and/or fellow classmates. The university will continue to provide high-quality masks to all campus community members.
COVID-19 Etiquette for Students
If you are ill:
- Do not attend class, work or other social gatherings.
- If you have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, seek and perform an antigen test.
- If you are feeling particularly ill, contact Cornell Health at 607-255-5155.
If you test positive:
- Report your result through the Daily Check. This helps us to understand prevalence on campus and to provide you with academic support while you recover.
- You will be granted a temporary accommodation notice that you may elect to share with your instructors if you anticipate missing class during your isolation period.
- Contact your college student services office for additional academic support as needed.
- Tell roommates and other close contacts that you have COVID-19. This will allow others to take proactive steps to monitor their health.
- Wear a high-quality mask at all times except when eating, sleeping or using bathroom facilities (e.g., showering, brushing teeth).
- Isolate in your residence hall or apartment. Follow TCHD current isolation guidelines.
- Limit time away from your room with the exception of seeking medical care or picking up food.
- Clean shared areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, immediately after use and before the next person enters.
Roommates of COVID-19 positive students should:
- Wear a high-quality mask when in residence halls/rooms, except when sleeping.
- Get tested. Because the virus can take days to incubate, even if asymptomatic, you should test immediately upon learning your roommate is positive and then several days later.
- Test immediately if you become symptomatic.
- Take extra precautions, such as cleaning shared, high-touch surfaces.
Some roommates of COVID-19 positive students may feel more comfortable temporarily relocating – students may choose to stay with a friend or go to a hotel at their own expense. Those students with severe medical vulnerability who have a COVID-19 positive roommate should contact Student Disability Services if they believe they need a temporary housing accommodation.
Community Forum for Undergraduate Students and Families
To further discuss our start-of-semester plans, Student and Campus Life will host a virtual community forum on Aug. 11 at 3:30 p.m. Please complete the registration form to attend.
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 for Student and Campus Life