As COVID-19 cases swell in New York, Tompkins Cortland Community College announced Sunday that its operations will be remote for one week, after the school reported an 11-person cluster.
“The move to remote will allow the health departments time to complete on-going contact tracing and contact any parties involved,” TC3 said on its website. “The college’s goal is to continue in-class instruction on Nov. 16, but only when it can be certain that our campus community is safe and healthy.”
The cluster consists of nine commuter students and two students who live on campus; no TC3 faculty or staff have COVID-19, according to the college. In Ithaca, Cornell and TC3 are the only higher education institutions in the area that opted to hold some in-person operations for the fall semester.
As a result of the shutdown, TC3 said it will temporarily close fitness centers and halt recreational activities as well as athletic practices.
Due to potential exposure, TC3 said it ordered 11 faculty members and 70 students to quarantine — 17 of the 70 quarantined students live on campus. The college attributed the quarantined students to the influx of COVID-19 cases in the Southern Tier region.
“It is important to note that while they were on our campus, the students followed all of our COVID-19 safety protocols, but given the rise in cases and the connection to a local cluster both Health Departments have mandated these quarantines,” TC3 said.
According to its website, neither New York State, SUNY nor Tompkins County ordered TC3 to shift to remote operations. Instead, the college said it did so “out of an abundance of caution.”
TC3’s announcement comes as New York has seen a drastic rise in COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, the state reported 3,340 new COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths. For months, the state had a travel advisory list that mandated travelers from states with high COVID case rates to quarantine.
But since New York would qualify for its own travel restrictions, the state ended its travel advisory list. Now, anyone traveling to New York must provide a negative COVID-19 test within three days of arrival. Then, travelers must take another COVID-19 test after a three-day quarantine. Travels who refuse to comply with the rule must quarantine for 14 days.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said the measure would remove the need to closely track cases in other states. The only states exempt from the order are New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Vermont.
Tompkins County Health Director Frank Kruppa implored residents to adhere to public health guidelines following Cuomo’s order and the uptick in cases the state has experienced.
“We all need to continue taking the same precautions: wear masks, wash hands, and maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others,” Kruppa said. “With the holidays coming up, I also remind everyone to avoid non-essential travel. The best gift to your family this holiday season is to avoid spreading COVID-19, so please consider staying home.”
Provost Michael Kotlikoff said in a Nov. 3 email to the Cornell community that it was unclear how New York’s new travel restrictions would affect the University’s travel and visitor policy. Currently, Cornell policy states that essential travel for faculty requires University permission and strongly discourages any personal travel. Visitors are also prohibited from entering all campus facilities, including residence halls.
At Cornell, cases have remained relatively low, bucking the national and state trends. In the past week, the University reported 14 cases among students, faculty and staff. On Nov. 8, there was only one new confirmed case among students.
Unlike Cornell, Tompkins County saw a significant uptick in cases in October, but the case count has since plateaued. TCHD confirmed Monday evening that there were two new cases and 57 active cases in Tompkins County.
As Cornell prepares to transition to completely remote classes after Thanksgiving break, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, encouraged students to continue following public health guidelines into the homestretch of the semester.
“As exams approach and you adapt to changing day-to-day routines, this time may be challenging,” Lombardi said in a Nov. 6 email to the Cornell community. “But I know that you will continue to act as a caring community toward one another, as well as take care of yourselves.”