Cornell University hosted a public forum July 15 that outlined the changes students can expect during the coming semester.
The forum revealed the dystopian future that awaits the (insert number of students expected to return) expected to return to Cornell in September: a 24-hour quarantine upon arrival, daily health monitoring and surveillance, a reporting system for negligent behavior, a mandate to either wear a mask or have one visibly displayed at all times among a slew of other changes. Each new addition to daily life a necessary one, but an uncomfortable reminder of how far we've come from the pre-COVID normal.
The first noticeable change students can expect upon moving onto campus is a new luggage policy. Students moving onto campus will be allowed just two suitcases and one backpack upon arrival in order to limit the number of trips they take to and from the drop-off location. Aug. 23 is the official move-in date for students from states not listed on the Governor's quarantine advisory list.
Students from states listed in the governor's NY quarantine advisory list will arrive on Aug. 17 and be isolated in a Statler room for a 14-day quarantine stint as mandated by NYS law. All costs of the stay will be covered. The quarantine list currently names 22 states, as of this week. Arrivals from states not listed in the NY quarantine advisory will arrive starting Aug. 23; be assigned one per room on (at Statler or at residence hall?) the first day, as they each await the results of the 24-hour test. Parents and guardians will not be allowed in any of the residence halls.
"The moving process for students coming from non-hot zone states, as I said, will start on Sept. 23," said Assistant Vice President Pat Wynn. "But that's actually an eight day process where a group moves in, [gets] tested. They either go into isolation or they go into the residence hall and then the next day another group comes in, another group comes in and that cadence is through the eight days. So that's taking up a lot of hotel real estate."
Wynn said that the school will be asking guardians to leave Ithaca immediately after dropping off their student in order to limit the likelihood of potential viral spread.
The university also asked, in a statement last week, that all students get tested at their permanent "home location before traveling to the Ithaca area" and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days before traveling. Although prior testing showing a negative result will not exempt students from the mandatory testing once they arrive on campus.
Wynn asked that students moving in off-campus request that their landlords stagger move-in dates for Collegetown apartments in order to keep "a whole bunch of people from moving into Collegetown and Collegetown Terraces at the same time. It remains unclear how or whether Collegetown property owners will be able to coordinate move-in dates among themselves. Additionally, the mandatory isolation required of on-campus residents does not appear to be required by off-campus residents.
Throughout the semester, students will be expected to monitor their own health— checking their temperature with the complementary thermometer provided to them in their "welcome gift" bag, which will include two reusable masks, hand sanitizer and a touchless key ring tool. After Sept. 2, all students will be required to participate in a health surveillance program that involves a daily online survey, called the Daily Check, and viral testing in regular intervals. "Facial coverings" will be required of every student who leaves their individual residence.
The Dean of Students said that students will be expected to follow the university's Behavioral Compact, a list of social distancing measures, which will become available upon move-in. The university also expects to release an online reporting tool where students will be able to report individuals and organizations not properly following social distancing guidelines. Multiple offenses will result in temporary suspension, may lead to expulsion, or loss of recognition by the university.
Greek organizations will still be allowed to host events at their respective locations, but will be required to produce a list of attendees for contact and tracing purposes.
"Unfortunately, we know that it is inevitable that there will be people on campus that are infected with the virus," said Dr. Gary Koretzky, VP of Academic Integration. "And so how does one prevent transmission of the virus? Through things that you've read about...like hand hygiene...There'll be stations on campus where there'll be hand sanitizer."
All students, whether living on campus or off, will be required to register with Cornell if they are living in the Ithaca area.
More details on move-in will be unveiled July 24.
On Thursday, Cornell implemented its extensive testing program through Cayuga Health Medical that will allow students on and off campus to receive testing at their leisure between now and September 1. Testing will be required of all students starting Sept. 2.
The university will attempt to limit the amount of in-person interaction that will take place on campus. As a result, the modality of each class or session will be determined, independently, by the professor or TA leading the course; dining halls will offer more to-go options; in-person classes will require assigned seating, with seats stationed six feet apart; and on-campus events will be limited to small gatherings or be hosted virtually.
However, all final exams will take place in-person, regardless of the modality of the course during the semester. From there, all students will transition to online classes following their return home after Thanksgiving Break.
Ithaca locals have voiced concerns about the return of the university's twenty-something thousand students returning to the town. Just this week the Tompkins County Health Department released a statement showing that cases in Tompkins County and Ithaca, specifically, had spiked into the double digits following Fourth of July weekend, a level not seen in nearly a month.
Individuals presenting symptoms or having concerns about being exposed to COVID-19 may seek testing at the Cayuga Health Sampling Site, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. To pre-register, call Cayuga Health Call Center at 607-319-5708, or cayugahealth.org. Cornell students can access free testing at the Fischel Band Center now until Sept. 1, Tues. and Thurs. between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Students should also register for their "Arrival Test Day" screening as soon as possible.