After about 1,681 Cornell students tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days, the University announced Tuesday that all students, faculty and staff must receive a booster shot, in addition to the COVID vaccine, for the spring semester.
According to an email from Cornell administrators, as the University plans for the spring semester, they are focused on reducing COVID-19 risk to the Cornell and Ithaca communities, including through requiring booster shots. This email comes a week after Cornell moved to red alert and shifted all final exams online.
While consequences were not specified in the email, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and Vice President Mary Opperman wrote that those who did not have a COVID-19 vaccine and booster by Jan. 31 or 30 days after becoming eligible for a booster will be “subject to appropriate action.” Students, faculty and staff need to upload their proof of booster to the Daily Check portal.
The email cited advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci M.D. ’66 that people who have had the Pfizer and Moderna booster shots are substantially protected against the Omicron variant, which was likely one of the main sources of infection during the recent surge in campus cases.
According to the email, the new booster requirement is meant to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect those most at risk for severe COVID-19 effects from hospitalization and serious illness.
“Because the Omicron variant spreads so readily among vaccinated individuals, and booster vaccinations markedly increase immunity directed against the variant, Cornell will require all students, faculty, and staff to have a COVID-19 vaccine and booster as part of comprehensive vaccination against this virus,” the email read.
People are eligible for a booster either two months after they get their Johnson & Johnson vaccine or six months after their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine. In accordance with new CDC guidelines, anyone who is eligible for a booster shot can get Pfizer or Moderna, regardless of what vaccine they have previously received.
By mandating the booster shot, Cornell joins its Ivy league peers and other universities. Universities including Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia and Brown mandated earlier in December that students get boosters for the spring semester.
“There are many opportunities to learn from our recent surge in cases, both in terms of our preparedness for any future variants, and the manner in which the virus continues to impact our campus and the world,” the email read. “We will work earnestly over the coming weeks to devise an approach to next semester that is both safe and sustainable, understanding that as we approach the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, we are all depleted from its impact.”