The Fischell Band Center COVID-19 testing site (above) is one of several Cornell locations used to test students. After a day of classes, Cornell is now at a yellow alert level, after a nine-person cluster swelled to 39 students.

Ben Parker / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

The Fischell Band Center COVID-19 testing site (above) is one of several Cornell locations used to test students. After a day of classes, Cornell is now at a yellow alert level, after a nine-person cluster swelled to 39 students.

September 3, 2020

Cornell Ticks Up to Yellow Alert Level

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On Thursday — the second day of classes — Cornell entered a yellow alert level, indicating a low to moderate risk level. There are now 47 total active cases on campus and 61 active cases in Tompkins County.

At this alert level, student gatherings larger than 10 people are prohibited. In-person and hybrid classes can still continue, but Cornell may undertake further efforts to de-densify on-campus spaces.

The shift up in alert levels came after Cornell identified 39 cases associated with an initial cluster and “related cluster” of COVID-19 cases linked to social gatherings — 36 of the 39 cases are among student athletes, Provost Mike Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi wrote in a Thursday email to the Cornell community. Within those 39 cases a sub-cluster has developed on the North Campus Townhouse Community. There are also an additional eight cases not tied to the first cluster.

Cornell athletics declined a request for comment.

Kotlikoff and Lombardi’s email stressed the urgency of the situation: “To be clear, however — all is not well. Far from it,” the two wrote. “There is the potential for just a few small student gatherings to destroy all our plans for an in-person semester.”

The cluster prompted Cornell to ramp up its testing efforts, Kotlikoff and Lombardi wrote, describing how the University implemented an “additional layer” to its testing regimen to screen not only close contacts, but students who felt that they may have been affected by the cluster. As a result, Cornell is now testing more members of select athletics teams.

While Kotlikoff and Lombardi did not specify any individual student sanctions, they said that students violating the behavioral compact have been suspended and banned from campus.

“[W]e will not shy away from continuing to impose such sanctions where appropriate,” the two wrote.

Wednesday saw the largest increase in new COVID-19 cases in Tompkins County since the pandemic’s start; 25 new cases were announced. On Thursday, the health department announced five additional cases in the county.

Cornell’s COVID-19 dashboard was last updated on Tuesday and shows 25 total cases among Cornell’s Ithaca community.

Luke Pichini ’22 contributed reporting.