As New York State reports 70 percent of adult residents vaccinated and lifts all COVID restrictions as of June 15, Cornell has yet to alter many of its COVID safety measures.
Returning to normal has begun with caution, as the University requires students — but not faculty and staff — to receive vaccinations for the fall 2021 semester.
Prof. Andreea Minca, operations research and information engineering, explained the public health benefits of lowering requirements only for faculty and staff before extending those policies to the entire community.
“It does make sense to start with a smaller group, older, perhaps known to be on extreme cautiousness in how they treat the pandemic,” Minca wrote in a statement to the Sun. “Also, this group –– for the most part –– lives locally in the Ithaca area, which has always had a low number of cases.”
After a full school year of the entire campus wearing masks and adhering to physical distancing, despite laxer CDC guidelines in early April, the University adapted its policies on June 1 to align more closely, but not completely, with more lenient CDC guidelines.
“I do emphasize that relaxation should be gradual, and potential exposure (e.g. through travel) to variants of concern will become an issue worth monitoring,” Minca wrote.
As of June 1, over a month after the CDC decided that mask wearing outdoors was no longer required, the University announced that all faculty and staff members no longer have to wear face coverings outdoors on campus. Indoors, unvaccinated individuals must continue to mask up.
The University no longer requires vaccinated staff members to receive surveillance tests, although they must continue to complete the Daily Check each day.
In order to be considered “vaccinated,” faculty and staff members must have reached the required two week point since their concluding dose and upload proof of their vaccination to the Daily Check website.
As of June 13, 16,170 students and 9,736 faculty and staff members — 86 percent of the on-campus population — had reported their vaccinated status according to the COVID-19 dashboard.
The University amended public health requirements for Ithaca-based students on June 1 as well. In early May, the CDC lifted indoor mask-wearing requirements, but vaccinated students must continue to mask up in classrooms and residence hall common areas. They must also maintain physical distance in campus classrooms or dining halls.
However, vaccinated students may engage in labs and outdoor gatherings without masks. Similar to vaccinated faculty, they must complete the Daily Check, but the University does not require their participation in surveillance testing.
Despite the delay in ending student COVID restrictions, Cornellians express their excitement that things are changing.
“It is so beautiful and encouraging to see parts of our world slowly turning back to normal,” said Skyler Risom ’24. “I hope that my life at Cornell can reflect these developments this fall.”
Caroline Scherr ’24, an incoming sophomore at Cornell, expressed appreciation for Cornell’s adherence to the guidelines set by the CDC.
Alexa Buten ’24 also expressed excitement to return to in-person classes after a year of hybrid learning.
“After having to navigate a new sense of normalcy for over a year, I look forward to Cornell opening up more in the fall as updated New York State guidelines enable us to return to in person classes and activities,” she said.
The University has not announced specific student public health requirements for the approaching fall semester.
“I am optimistic about next year and I have a lot of confidence in our administration and my fellow peers to execute a safe and enjoyable 2021-2022 school year,” Risom said.