Hannah Rosenberg/Sun Photography Editor

Students regularly lounge on the slope, but questions of COVID-19 risk may dampen slope fun.

April 8, 2021

The Slope Is Cornell’s Main Hangout Spot. But Is It COVID Safe?

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Whether it be eating dinner with friends, watching the sunset, hammocking or even stargazing, students dot Libe Slope each day. 

Since its founding, this famous Cornell location has served as a student hub — and as the virus has pushed students to hang out outdoors, the slope has bustled more than ever. But according to Prof. Luis Schang, chemical virology, COVID-19 is still a risk to slope hangouts.  

 “Any situation in which any person gets in contact with people they would otherwise not be in contact with allows the possibility of spreading the virus in different groups,” he said.

Schang said while the wind outdoors could carry COVID-19 infected droplets more than 60 yards, the viral load would decrease substantially compared to indoor gatherings. The density of people and the air exchange still matter outdoors, he said.

“It’s always better to be in open spaces where there is wind, but it is still important to keep the distance,” Schang said.

Still, for Raisa Junaidi MILR ’22, the slope is a crucial part of a full Cornell experience. With a finite number of college years, Junaidi — along with many other Cornellians — continue to flock to the slope even during the pandemic.

Junaidi said she enjoys the view with friends who are not from the same household, but generally from the same friendship bubbles.

“I sit on the slope with my friends about two to three times a week,” said Kristan Nail ’23. She said while she felt students on the slope are sometimes too close to their peers, different student groups maintain at least a six foot distance from one another.

Qi Xie ’22 said he believes that hanging out on the slope is a relatively safe activity in a pandemic, especially since it is outdoors. “I feel safe because [on the slope] everyone is masked,” he said.

According to Qi, indoor activities such as in-person exams seem like they might might pose a bigger risk than outdoor student gatherings due to the large number of people in an enclosed space. 

However, Schang also said gathering on the slope is not risk free due to the tendency of students to eat and drink there.

“If we are going to be on the slope, and we keep the distance, and we keep the masks on and so forth, that is one thing,” Schang said. “If we take the decision to behave differently, it would be a different thing.”