Cornell University announced that it has moved to alert level yellow in its COVID-19 tracking dashboard, following a week-long rise in positive test results among its students, meaning that the university considers the potential of obtaining the virus low, but indicators show increased or potential for increase in transmission.
The announcement specified that over the week its Ithaca campus has seen an increase in positive test results from students since Aug. 28: nine on Friday, Aug. 28; two on Saturday, Aug. 29; one on Sunday, August 30; five on Monday, August 31; seven on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and 14 on Wednesday. Currently the total number of active cases sits at 47, with one case being reported last Thursday and eight unrelated to the growing cluster.
The university said that it has moved to yellow alert since it expects for the cluster sizes to grow as it awaits the results of pending test results. The university also said that among the 39 new cases, the cohort of students who comprise the largest number of positive cases are student athletes (36 cases in total) and have been isolated.
"While these clusters represent approximately only 0.1% of our campus population, and a very small percentage of our student athletes, it points to a dangerous disregard by a group of students for the behavioral guidelines that we established to protect the public health of our community," stated the university.
In response to the growing number of cases, the university said that it has instituted an additional testing measure called adaptive testing, which will target students the school feels might have been impacted, including members of its athletic teams. This contrasts its original plan which focused only on testing individuals who came in close contact with a person with a positive test result.
For violation of the Behavioral Compact, which all students are required to agree to before attending schools, Cornell said that it has "dealt with [its students] through significant consequences." Among the consequences, Cornell listed banning from campus and suspension.
"We will not shy away from continuing to impose such sanctions where appropriate," stated the university. " All of us share a responsibility to conduct ourselves in ways that do not put others at risk, and we cannot allow the actions of a few to ruin the possibility of an in-person semester and risk the health and safety of our community."
As per the guidelines of Cornell's COVID-tracking dashboard, the university has taken the additional measure of capping all student social gatherings to 10 people, for the time being; all in-person university sponsored activities remain suspended until the end of September. Students can also expect the following:
- Enforced physical distancing, masks wearing and hand washing.
- Combination of in-person/hybrid and online learning.
- Frequency of testing may be increased for some populations.
- Cornell may further reduce capacity of on-campus spaces.
- Student gatherings may be limited to 10 people or fewer (physical distancing and masks required).
- Visitors will not allowed on campus and travel is strongly discouraged.
The university's move to yellow alert has undoubtedly been impacted by the Governor's decision last week requiring any college campuses to go remote for two weeks if they see 100 cases over a two week period. Students will still be permitted to remain on campus.
"It is our sincere hope that all of us will similarly learn from the experience of this past week, that we will rededicate ourselves to abiding by all of the county’s and Cornell’s public health guidelines, and that we will be able to enjoy a healthy and productive semester. We can do this."
Individuals presenting symptoms or with concerns about being exposed should seek testing.
- Cayuga Health Sampling Site located at The Shops at Ithaca Mall parking lot, 40 Catherwood Rd. Register for an appointment online atcayugahealthsystem.org or call the Cayuga Health Call Center at 607-319-5708. Regular hours for the Sampling Site and Call Center are Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:00PM.
- If potentially exposed, Cornell University students should contact Cornell Health at 607-255-5155; do not go to a surveillance testing site.
- All other students and community members should seek testing at the Cayuga Health Sampling Site.
- If you need transportation assistance to the Cayuga Health Sampling Site, call 2-1-1 after you have registered and made a testing appointment. 2-1-1 is available 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. to help with transportation options to the Sampling Site. For local updates and information, check the TCHDwebsite.
Individuals who have traveled to a state with significant community spread listed on the NYS Travel Advisory must quarantine for 14 days. See an up-to-date list of states on the NYS Travel Advisory webpage. For more information about how to quarantine, refer to the TCHD website.