Jason Wu/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A sign indicates the new location of the Willard Straight COVID Testing Center, Willard Straight Hall, August 20, 2022. Surveillance testing is no longer mandatory at Cornell and has been replaced by optional antigen self-tests, including for students returning from travel.

October 11, 2022

University Continues COVID-19 Self-Test Policy as Fall Break Ends

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Cornell has decided to continue its COVID-19 testing policies from the beginning of fall semester as fall break comes to a close, asking students to self-test with antigen test kits before returning to classes on Wednesday, according to an email sent to students. 

The University’s response to COVID-19 has changed from previous years during the fall 2022 semester, doing away with mandatory PCR surveillance testing and masking and replacing those rules with optional but encouraged antigen tests, which are available at sites across the Ithaca campus. 

As students return from fall break, many of them returning from travel outside Ithaca, the University is asking students to take a few precautions. In an email from the Cornell Campus Public Health Support Team, students were asked to test before leaving for Ithaca and again before beginning campus activities — ideally upon return to Ithaca and then again 3-5 days after arrival — and to report any positive test results through the Daily Check website. 

In 2021, after students’ return from fall break, COVID-19 rates did not see significant spikes. In 2020, the University removed the fall break period in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Students can receive free antigen test kits from the University to help them complete these steps if they have recently traveled, attended a large gathering, had an illness or been potentially exposed to COVID-19. 

Though encouraged, none of the steps the University is requesting students take are required, a change from fall break 2021 when the University enforced mandatory surveillance testing for students who traveled. 

It is difficult to measure the necessity of post-fall break testing this year given the lack of information from the University: The COVID-19 dashboard, which used to display the rates of positive tests on campus, has been removed from the website since last week.

“I was surprised to see the email for return from fall break COVID-19 testing because we have, thus far, had a very normal semester, and I associate that with last year,” said Isabel Hou ’24. “But, so far, I’m happy with where we’re at.”

In response to this week’s COVID-19 return testing email, Ethan Abbate ’24 expressed appreciation for the University’s commitment to COVID-19 safety over the past few years.

“Cornell’s acknowledgement of the damage that COVID-19 has done in past semesters makes me feel like they care,” Abbate said.