On April 7, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman addressed the Cornell community in an email providing updates regarding the new COVID-19 booster shot, surveillance testing policies and vaccination requirements for the 2022-2023 academic year.
According to the email, the University will continue to require that all Cornell students and employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have received a valid exemption.
The decision has received support from students like Shannon Brewi ’24, who sees vaccination as a public health necessity
“All students should be vaccinated against COVID-19 because it is a group effort to protect each other from getting sick. I feel safer being at school knowing that my peers and the faculty are all vaccinated,” Brewi said.
Ariana Ishkanian ’24 felt similarly, arguing that the vaccine mandate would return campus to a state of post-pandemic normalcy faster.
“With everyone doing their part, classes, clubs and in-person events can get back to normal [pre-covid conditions] faster, allowing for us to have the best and most normal college experience possible,” Ishkanian said.
However, the April 7 email’s announcement that booster shots will no longer be required for University students and employees has left some students feeling that the University is relaxing its anti-COVID-19 measures too quickly.
“Cornell is getting lazy on their policies,” Alex Taylor ’24 said. “This shortcut they are taking is unfortunate because it seems they are ignoring their own science that getting a booster will help people not catch COVID-19 or [not] get severe symptoms if they do catch it.”
Alejandro Cuellar ’24 said he believes the decision to not require a booster shot in the fall is a temporary measure to avoid backlash as boosters come under attack in the U.S.
“I think Cornell not requiring the booster allows them to avoid backlash. However, as time passes, I believe they will require students to have the booster,” said Cuellar.
Because some students have increased natural immunity for 90 days after being infected with COVID-19, Talia Dror ’25 said she supports booster shots not being required so that students can use up their 90 days of immunity before getting the booster shot in order to have the greatest amount of time with increased immunity.
Since Feb. 21, fully vaccinated students have not been required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Cornell administrators said in their April 7 email that the University will continue to offer COVID-19 tests for those who want them, and will allow students to opt into weekly surveillance testing.
The April 7 email also explained that the University will be making significant changes to surveillance testing procedures. As of April 11, unvaccinated students and employees working or taking classes on campus will only have to participate in surveillance testing once per week, and fully vaccinated individuals who did not get a booster shot will no longer be required to undergo weekly testing.
Jing Su ’24 said she supports this policy as a way to reduce stress on students.
“Having students test more than once a week could disrupt their education and remove focus from school,” Su said.
While Sagal Mohamud ’23 said she enjoys not having to get tested since the requirements were lifted for fully vaccinated and boosted students, she feels that the lack of testing is a bad policy.
“Cornell is giving up on its student’s health and safety,” Mohamud said. “I know we have been in a pandemic for the past 2 years and learned to live with this virus but as you can see before spring break we still have flare-ups and outbreaks so implementing the booster or testing once a week can maybe stabilize cases.”
But as restrictions fall and Cornell begins to once again resemble what it did before the pandemic, Alexandra Yiachos ’24 said she is happy.
“I think it’s great that Cornell is beginning to resemble a normal college experience and that students can interact in meaningful ways,” said Yiachos.