Cornell students signing into classes at the Physical Sciences Building on August 2nd, 2020.

Daniel Ra / Cornell Daily Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell students signing into classes at the Physical Sciences Building on August 2nd, 2020.

September 16, 2020

Cornell Returns to Green Alert Level as Campus Largely Contains Spread of COVID-19

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This story has been updated.

After 13 days at the yellow alert level, Cornell has returned to its “new normal” as it reported zero new cases for two days straight and only three confirmed on-campus positives since Sept. 12.

In a Wednesday email to the Cornell community, Provost Mike Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi lauded the efforts of students, faculty and staff in containing the spread when announcing the shift to green.

“Our positivity rate remains low, and our program for surveillance testing has succeeded in providing early identification of cases — the majority of which have been asymptomatic,” the two wrote.

The change is indicative of low prevalence and controlled transmission among the campus community. After the move to the yellow alert level, the frequency of testing for some groups — such as student athletes — was increased, and the capacity of on-campus spaces was reduced.

Student gatherings, however, will remain capped at 10 people, a change instituted based on “what we have learned over the past two weeks,” the two wrote. Previously, gatherings were limited to 30 individuals while the University is at its new normal.

On Sept. 3, the University moved to yellow alert level, partly due to a cluster that started with nine students but quickly grew to 39. The cluster was linked to small social gatherings and 36 of the 39 cases were among student athletes. Under the yellow alert, gatherings larger than 10 students were prohibited, but in-person and hybrid classes could still continue.

Following the first cluster, President Martha E. Pollack warned students in an email that maintaining plans for a hydribd semester was “extremely difficult” given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D-N.Y.) mandate that colleges must pause in-person instruction for two weeks if they see 100 cases in a 14-day period.

Tompkins County has witnessed a decline in the number of active COVID-19 cases, with single digit increases in new cases since Sept. 10. The county currently has 39 active cases, the Tompkins County Health Department reported Tuesday.