New York State’s 230 colleges and universities have reported a total of 1,876 COVID-19 cases, — Cornell accounts for only 92 of them. About 46 colleges of these 230 are offering a hybrid mode of instruction, 36 are primarily in-person.
Cornell experienced a rocky start to the semester, moving up to yellow alert level on just the second day of classes. The shift up in alert levels came after a cluster of 36 cases was identified among student athletes, leading to growing fears that Cornell would need to shut down campus for two weeks and switch to remote instruction.
New York State has been able to maintain a relatively low positive COVID-19 test rate. As of Sept. 22, New York reported 0.89 percent of positive tests, which is about 754 positive cases out of the 83,997 tests administered.
Despite those initial fears, cases at Cornell have remained low for the past two weeks. Cornell had only five new positives over the past week, a 0.02 percent positive test rate. Last week, for three days straight, Cornell reported no new active COVID-19 cases. Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi also announced Sept. 16 that the University would be back to a green alert level, indicating a “new normal.”
Now, Cornell is receiving praise for managing the pandemic effectively. “Cornell’s behavioral compact and testing program are incredibly thorough and are capable of identifying cases quickly and efficiently to prevent the spread of the virus in the campus population,” according to a Forbes article comparing Cornell’s reopening plan to other colleges.
On the other hand, SUNY Oneonta had one of the worst college coronavirus outbreaks in the country, with more than 680 confirmed cases — around 10 percent of the student population. The high case count forced the university to cancel in-person classes and send students home for the rest of the fall semester.
Oneonta is an outlier compared to other SUNY schools, but parents and students still expressed concerns with SUNY’s reopening plans as it did not require every campus to ensure students test negative before classes began.
Nevertheless, the SUNY NY Tracker shows no new major outbreaks, reporting a total of 223 new positives over the past 14 days.
Nearby Binghamton University only had 17 total positive tests since Sept. 2, a 0.71 percent positive test rate and zero active cases as of Sept. 21.
In Tompkins County, Ithaca College, which is completely online this semester, has reported only six positive COVID-19 cases since Aug. 14, and Tompkins Cortland Community College, which has a hybrid model for the fall, had zero positive tests in the last 10 days.
As the semester unfolds, universities across the country have been forced to adapt their COVID-19 testing and administrative standards. Cornell, for example, in addition to previous public health measures of physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing, limited student gatherings to 10 people when it switched back to a green alert level.
Additionally, as soon as Cornell learned of the cluster, it also implemented adaptive testing measures, a more aggressive method to combat the rise in cases that tests those who may have been impacted by the cluster, even if they were not close contacts.
Researchers from Harvard University and Yale University have been publishing “report cards” on various universities based on their COVID-19 dashboards, the frequency they report data and how detailed the information is.
Fordham University, Long Island University, Yeshiva University, Princeton University and John Hopkins University all received an ‘F’ for keeping their students and faculty in the dark about COVID-19 cases. As of Sept. 22, John Hopkins has risen to a B-.
On Sept. 22, the researchers updated how the other Ivy League schools were faring with the coronavirus, giving Harvard, Yale and Brown an ‘A.’ Cornell is the only Ivy League that has allowed all students to return to campus, and has been able to maintain an ‘A-.’