Grant Hindsley / The New York Times

New restrictions set in place by Cornell University to address the spread of the novel coronavirus.

March 6, 2020

Cornell, TCAT Release New Set of Guidelines as COVID-19 Spreads in the U.S.

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As spring break approaches, the University announced on Thursday a slew of more stringent guidelines for international travel and event policies in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak — which has so far afflicted at least 98,100 people in nearly 81 countries.

Students are now prohibited from any international travel for Cornell-related purposes, and faculty or staff who may wish to travel for the same reasons must register their departure with the University.

Starting March 9, any large events — those with more than 100 people in attendance — will be either postponed or canceled until April 15. This policy particularly extends to events in which people are expected to travel to Ithaca for the event.

The 95th annual Hotel Ezra Cornell conference — set to take place on March 12 — has been canceled because of the outbreak, leaving organizers to currently look into hosting a virtual event alternative or a local community gathering, according to an email from the School of Hotel Administration dean Kate Walsh.

Any events that are solely for Cornell-audiences will not be canceled, according to the University.  However, Cornell’s upcoming hockey playoffs — which have drawn thousands of attendees to Lynah Rink in the past — have not yet been canceled.

For spring break, the University said in the email that students should refrain from any international travel for personal reasons. People who have previously traveled to China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and Japan in the past 14 days are not allowed to visit Cornell’s Ithaca or New York City campuses.

Cornell community members are also strongly encouraged to register any personal travel to international locations so the University can “be as responsive and supportive as possible should more changes occur.” Anyone who is currently abroad for Cornell-related purposes is also strongly encouraged to immediately check in with the University, the email read.

While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins County, New York state had 22 confirmed cases of the disease as of Thursday night. In the U.S., there are currently 215 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Eighteen of the 22 cases are in Westchester County — where 679 students reside.

Additionally, Cornellians returning from countries with level 3 travel warnings, from the Centers for Disease Control, will be quarantined for at least 14 days at a permanent home residence before they can return to campus.

Other students studying abroad in countries with no significant travel warning will also now have the option to leave their abroad programs and complete their semester online. According to the email, Cornell will provide distance learning activities for these abroad students.

Aside from Cornell, Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, along with its paratransit provider Gadabout, is also taking preventative measures against the novel coronavirus — in line with guidelines from agencies including the CDC, the New York Department of Health and the Tompkins County Health Department, according to a Thursday TCAT press release.

The transit company will implement added cleaning protocols by March 9, which includes disinfecting bus interiors each night with a “professional-grade germicidal electrostatic sprayer,” in addition to its existing daily cleaning routine.

“Bus handlers clean every bus in the interior and wipe off surfaces and remove litter,” Patty Poist, the TCAT communications and marketing manager, told The Sun. “After they do their regular cleans, they will go through and spray as an extra protective measure in light of coronavirus.”

TCAT will disinfect surfaces inside Green Street Station, a major hub and indoor waiting area. Both the station and buses will offer hand sanitizer and posters with CDC coronavirus prevention guidelines.

As Cornell and its bus system monitor the spread of coronavirus, TCAT said it is prepared to reduce its service “if and when necessary” to ensure rider and employee safety.