Hannah Rosenberg/Sun Photography Editor

Despite rising positive COVID-19 cases, Cornell reaffirms that classes will largely remain in-person.

August 30, 2021

Administration Responds to COVID-19 Case Spike, Reinforces Commitment to In-Person Teaching

Print More

As the number of new positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to more than 200 following move-in and the first week of classes, Cornell is doubling down on keeping the fall semester as in-person.

On Monday afternoon, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life, and Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, sent a joint statement to the Cornell community, reinforcing their confidence in current testing and health guidelines, despite the jump in positive COVID-19 cases over the weekend. 

The email responded to concerns from students, faculty, staff and parents after Friday’s shift to the yellow alert — with some calling for a shift to remote instruction. 

“While our comprehensive surveillance testing has identified more positive cases among students than we had hoped, we emphasize that to date there have been no cases of serious illness,” the email read.

Cornell reported 56 new positive cases on Sunday — bringing the weekly total to 201 cases. The positivity rate by week has risen to 0.9 percent. Quarantine capacity is at 48 percent as of Monday evening. 

There are currently 268 active cases in Tompkins County, with 38 new positive cases on Monday and three active hospitalizations. 

The email attributed the majority of cases to “informal, off-campus gatherings of groups of undergraduate students,” noting that students who have tested positive are overwhelmingly asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms. 

The email reinforced that the University is following data indicating it is safe to proceed with an in-person semester, adding that the risk of classroom transmission is minimal and that there’s no evidence of transmission to University personnel as part of teaching or research programs.

“The science continues to indicate that our approach to an in-person semester is safe and that risk of infection is minimal when we collectively follow public health guidance,” the email read.  

As cases rise, masks are required both indoors and outdoors when physically distancing is not possible. Additionally, the University’s ventilation system has been upgraded to increase air turnover and fresh air intake. 

Administrators also emphasized the adaptive testing program that takes a student’s activities, living circumstances and classes into account to identify positive cases as quickly as possible. 

“Our data continue to suggest that — with vaccination, masking and testing — it is safe to be in the classroom and in other structured environments and activities on campus” the email read.