A statement just out from Cornell University –
As the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, has spread around the world, it has challenged all of us in different ways. Some of us may have relatives in countries that were impacted early, others may have elderly relatives about whom we are worried, still others may be immunocompromised and at high risk themselves. All of us, I’m sure, are concerned about how the virus will affect our day-to-day lives over the next few weeks and possibly months. This is a moment that is different from what any of us has experienced before and, as such, it can be frightening. But it is also a moment for us to remember that we are a strong community that will do what it takes to protect ourselves and to support one another.
In that vein, I write to you today with some important updates. We have a team of leaders that has been working tirelessly over the last number of weeks, consulting with experts in public health and emergency management and implementing policies on issues ranging from travel, to size of meetings and events, to international study programs. I want to publicly thank them for their hard work. The policies that we have put in place to date are extremely important, but the time has come for us to do even more. While there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins County, we must do all we can to minimize future community spread.
- Most significantly, we will move to virtual instruction. We are asking faculty to begin that transition now so that after spring break all instruction – for the rest of the semester – will be online. We will be asking all undergraduate students and many professional degree students to leave campus at the start of spring break and to remain at their permanent home residence, completing their semesters remotely. (When essential, we will honor requests for exemptions.)
- Graduate and professional students involved in individual rotations or doing individual research may continue their programs but must limit travel and group activities consistent with our other policies.
- We are tightening our policies for group events to prohibit all nonessential events of more than 100 people, on and off campus, even when they include only members of the Cornell community. This excludes classroom teaching through March 27. Additionally, we are strongly discouraging university-sponsored events that bring outside guests to campus; these should occur only with guidance from college leadership.
- With the exception of students returning home for spring break (and remaining there for the rest of the semester), we are strongly discouraging all domestic travel, both personal and Cornell-related. Restrictions on international travel remain unchanged.
- We are implementing further enhanced cleaning procedures for our facilities.
More details on each of the above items are provided below, so it is important that you read this message in its entirety. Where appropriate, individual colleges and units will be sending out additional guidance relevant to their specific communities.
Please also know that these decisions were made only with great reluctance. I recognize how disruptive they will be and how much disappointment they will cause, especially the decision to move to virtual instruction. We are asking students to miss out on the enormous value of face-to-face instruction and on the camaraderie of their peers. I appreciate that this will be especially disappointing for our graduating seniors. We are asking faculty to adjust their plans and to take on the significant task of developing different ways to deliver education. We are asking staff to perform a host of additional work as they provide critical support for these changes. But all of these actions are necessary if we are to be responsive to the recommendations of public health officials regarding how best to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health of our community, especially of the most vulnerable among us.