Adrian Boteanu / Sun File Photo

Now that on-campus research activities have been suspended laboratories across Cornell's campus are pooling their unused resources to lessen predicted shortages in medical supplies.

March 25, 2020

As Campus Labs Halt Research, Cornell Pools Resources for New York Medical Centers

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As non-essential Cornell research and lab activities are now suspended, many Cornell researchers are now donating much needed supplies, doing their part to help mitigate an impending statewide shortage.

Cayuga Medical has only two pulmonologists and 204 inpatient beds, and predicts that the pandemic will lead to a dire shortage of staffing, beds and supplies.

The hospital previously contacted Cornell, hoping to lessen the predicted shortages in swabs necessary to administer tests for COVID-19. While there have been no specific shortages at local medical centers, laboratories on campus are compiling resources necessary in the detection and treatment of COVID-19.

“We are working with the Tompkins County emergency operations center to fulfill the needs of the entire county (e.g., other healthcare providers, EMS organizations), including the hospital,” wrote Frank A. Cantone, the director of emergency management and business continuity, in an email to The Sun, “Additionally, we are collecting medical supplies to support our colleagues at Weill Cornell Medicine.”

While Tompkins County currently only has 16 confirmed cases, the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting medical supply shortage is even worse downstate. Weill Cornell Medicine — located in New York City — is struggling to treat a rapidly escalating number of cases.

New York State is now about equal to Italy in terms of the rate of confirmed cases, both at around 105 cases per 100,000 residents. Additionally, the chief of surgery at one of New York City’s largest hospitals, New York-Presbytarian, has predicted that the hospital could be over capacity in as soon as 22 days.

“NYC is being hit rather hard and we are trying to assist them as well as our local community,” Cantone said.

As of March 18, Cornell suspended all nonessential research activities, leaving many supplies from campus laboratories unused and available for contribution to medical centers predicting supply shortages, like WCM and Cayuga Medical Center.

“Donations continue to come in from all over campus as lab and research activities wind down significantly,” Cantone said.

One lab donating their unused supplies is the Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories —which is primarily responsible for teaching an introductory biology lab course. The laboratories donated their entire supply of nitrile examination gloves to Cayuga Medical Center.

Since all undergraduate courses — including the Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories’ flagship course Investigative Biology Laboratory — are now digital, the lab no longer needs these supplies for the remainder of the spring semester.

Another source of these scarce medical supplies is the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, which donated 900 N95 respirators to Cayuga Medical Center and loaned two full service ventilators and a high flow oxygen unit to a hospital in Manhattan.