Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A student walks into the RPCC COVID testing location on North Campus.

March 30, 2021

Weeks After Cornell Urged Extra North Campus Testing, Only Some Residents Are Signing Up

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Two weeks after Cornell’s announcement that urged all North Campus residents to schedule an additional weekly COVID test following cases tied to residence halls, some students have been making a third trek to testing sites each week. But other students aren’t signing up for extra tests. 

In the email sent on March 17, Cornell asked North Campus residents to schedule a third surveillance test every week until further notice after a spike in positive cases in dorms. Currently, students living in Greek life housing are also tested three times a week. These two groups have a high potential for exposure to the virus due to the large number of close contacts. 

“We will use this extra capacity to increase the surveillance testing frequency for students who, by nature of their shared living arrangements or affiliations, have a potential for exposure to a high number of close contacts,” the email read.

Cases remain high on campus. As of Monday, Cornell’s COVID-19 Dashboard reports 112 new positives in the past week, and 105 are from students.

Since the initial case spike that moved Cornell to the yellow alert, Travis Zhang ’24 –– who lives in Low Rise 7 –– has been scheduling his additional supplemental tests. Zhang said he believes this measure was a “good move” by the University to address the spike in positive cases. 

The increase in testing is aimed to provide students “with peace of mind in [their] own health” as well as to “isolate the COVID-19 virus as soon as possible,” the email read. 

While some first-year students have been diligent in following the University’s recommendation of scheduling an additional test, others have not, saying that Cornell has not enforced the policies outlined in the email. 

The wording of the email confused some students. Angela Zheng ’24 said she was unsure whether scheduling a third surveillance test every week was a requirement for everyone.

“I was a little confused because I wasn’t sure if it was required to get tested three times a week,” she said. 

Eric Huang ’24 said that he and most of his friends have not been scheduling additional tests. Huang said he felt this extra measure hasn’t been effective because Cornell did not require it.

“I personally don’t mind having the tests, but if they really want to make a difference, they should do something more enforceable,” Huang said. 

According to Zheng, making testing mandatory three times a week for North Campus residents, like it has been for Greek life students this spring, could act as an effective solution. 

“If the administration wants us to get tested three times a week, just make it mandatory,” she said. 

Steven Gomez ’24 mentioned that people he knows haven’t been scheduling tests, expressing an overall sense of discontent with the new policy. He said that some students he knows still meet large groups of people and that they should be getting tested at a greater frequency than others. 

“But the majority of people that I know don’t really leave [their dorm] or only hang out with the same group of people,” Gomez said. “I just don’t think it’s necessary.”

And, while increased testing may help identify positive cases, Carlene Mwaura ’24 says that additional surveillance testing for the North Campus population doesn’t address the root cause of campus outbreaks — unmasked social gatherings.

“I just feel like it’s the students’ responsibility to manage these cases as well,” Mwaura said.