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The Fischell Band Center COVID-19 testing site (above) is one of several Cornell locations used to test students.

ITHACA, NY -- Cornell University announced that intends to require vaccination for students returning to its Ithaca, Geneva and Cornell Tech campuses for the fall semester. Medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated, but “the expectation will be that our campuses and classrooms will overwhelmingly consist of vaccinated individuals,” according to the letter.

The school said that students who are not able to obtain vaccination prior to arrival in the fall, or whose vaccination is not recognized by New York state, will be expected to be vaccinated as soon after their arrival as possible. 

Despite the current pace of vaccination, Cornell is preparing for several scenarios: herd immunity, high levels of immunity and lower levels of immunity. The school is anticipating herd immunity which will allow in-person classes to return without any routine scheduled online option. 

With high levels of immunity — above 50% — the risk of in-class transmission in fully occupied classes will be equal to that of de-densified classrooms as long as seating adjustments are made and students and faculty wear masks. The school said that if they have no achieved full herd immunity but nearly all faculty and staff and the majority of students are vaccinated, the semester will begin with normal in-person instruction without a routinely provided online option, though with enhanced safety measures which would include the continuation of surveillance testing.  

If less than 50% of students have been vaccinated by the start of the semester, Cornell will begin with de-densified classrooms with a mix of instruction modes similar to the current semester until a higher threshold of vaccination is met. After sufficient herd immunity is reached, it’s anticipated the school would fully institute in-person classroom instruction. 

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