Updated Feb. 26

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources and Updates

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) continue to monitor a novel strain of coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. On Feb. 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the novel coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19.

Cornell officials are proactively working with local and state public health organizations to monitor this concern and to protect the health and well-being of the Cornell community. At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York state. This resource page will continue to be updated as new or relevant information emerges.

Update on COVID-19 (Feb. 26): Based on guidance from the CDC, Cornell has designated South Korea and mainland China as elevated-risk destinations.

At this time, no members of the Cornell community are undergoing testing for the Novel Coronavirus. There are still no confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus in New York state and the risk to the community remains low.


Frequently Asked Questions

What do we know about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The Novel Coronavirus (recently renamed COVID-19) is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to other viruses like MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Coronaviruses commonly circulate in animals and sometimes also infect humans. In the beginning of the outbreak in early December, transmission was related to an animal source in Wuhan, China. As of January 30, person-to-person transmission was confirmed by CDC. Visit the CDC website for ongoing updates.

The latest research has determined an incubation period of five days, with a range of 2-14 days.

Similar to influenza and other respiratory viruses, transmission of COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets exchanged among close contacts (those who interact with a person at a distance closer than about 6 feet). Details about the virus transmission are still being researched.

Information about the virus and its spread continues to evolve rapidly, and the CDC has advised that communities should prepare for the potential of community spread in the United States. Cornell University is engaged in planning and preparedness efforts in partnership with the Tompkins County Health Department, NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) and CDC.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Are there confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York state?

No cases have been confirmed in New York state. The CDC is actively monitoring and updating their website with information on suspected and confirmed cases in the U.S.

Is there a vaccine?

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

How do you test a person for COVID-19?

At this time, diagnostic testing for COVID-19 can only be conducted at the approval of the CDC and can only be done if criteria are met for testing. These criteria are defined by the CDC as criteria for “Patients Under Investigation.” If these criteria are met, your health care provider will work with the Tompkins County Health Department and CDC to obtain and send a laboratory specimen to the CDC for testing, and arrange for isolation while waiting for results.

Are there ways to prevent contracting the virus?

The CDC recommends preventative actions to reduce the risk of developing the flu or other respiratory diseases, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you are sick, stay home.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you haven’t already been immunized against the flu, it is not too late to get a flu shot.

I’m sick. How do I know if it is COVID-19 or something else, like the flu?

COVID-19 symptoms and flu symptoms can be similar, but COVID-19 is related to the outbreak in China. Even if you’ve traveled to an affected area – or have had contact with someone who has – if you have symptoms of fever, cough, body aches, it is possible that it could be the flu.

Ithaca students who have flu-like symptoms should call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24/7) for consultation. Cornell Tech students may call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24/7) for consultation. You may also reach out to Cornell Tech’s Health & Wellness office at studentwellness@tech.cornell.edu.

Cornell Tech students who have symptoms as described above and have traveled to an affected area — or have had contact with someone known to be infected with COVID-19 (or who is currently being tested) — should go to the Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian campus emergency room located at 585 E. 68th St. in Manhattan. Please call the emergency department ahead of time at 212-746-5454 to inform them that you will be arriving.

Faculty and staff should contact their primary care provider.

I have recently returned from a trip to an affected area or have had contact with someone who may have COVID-19 and have respiratory symptoms. What should I do?

If you were in an affected area in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, do the following:

  • Seek medical advice. Call before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room and tell them about your recent travel and symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Do not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

I’m worried about someone who might be sick or might have been exposed to COVID-19. What should I do?

If you know a student that has flu-like symptoms, you can encourage them to contact Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 (24/7) to seek advice and care.

It is important to recognize that we are still in the midst of cold and flu season. CDC reports that influenza activity is, and will remain, high for the next several weeks. Cornell Health is actively monitoring clinical operations to ensure patients calling or coming to the health center are promptly assessed and treated for flu-like illnesses. Cornell Health also has evidence-based protocols to identify and test for COVID-19 and is available for calls or questions about coronavirus, flu or any other concerns.

With many community members feeling under the weather, it is critical that we each strive to lead with compassion and empathy and to avoid making assumptions based on someone’s perceived symptoms or identity. For community building and support resources, see the Feb. 7 message from the Presidential Advisors on Diversity and Equity and the Vice Provost for International Affairs.

Why isn’t Cornell requiring self-quarantine of those who have recently traveled to affected areas?

Guidance from the NYSDOH and the CDC is informing the process of both Cornell University and the Tompkins County Health Department for prevention and response.

Travelers from affected areas arriving in the U.S. should carefully review the most updated health and travel information available from the CDC so you are aware of the risks associated, as well as any screenings and quarantine guidelines that may be in place at the time of your return. Note that travel restrictions into the U.S. may apply to certain travelers that have recently spent time in affected areas and these guidelines will continue to evolve; contact your airline in advance to understand current policy.

Can I still travel abroad?

In most cases and to most countries, yes. In response to growing concerns over COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all nonessential travel to China and South Korea be suspended at this time.

Based on this guidance, the university will not permit Cornell-related undergraduate, graduate or professional student travel to mainland China or South Korea until such time as Cornell’s International Travel Advisory and Response Team (ITART) removes these countries from the elevated-risk destinations list. Any faculty or staff member who wishes to travel to mainland China or South Korea for Cornell-related scholarship or business must receive approval from ITART prior to travel. Given the uncertainties of this quickly evolving situation, we do not know when the CDC may lift these restrictions.

While there are currently no Cornell travel restrictions related to COVID-19 in place for other countries, we are closely monitoring the outbreak around the globe with a particular attention on countries where the CDC has placed a Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions travel notification.

If your travels are taking you to any of these countries — currently, Japan, Italy, Iran — we suggest maintaining flexible travel plans. While the risk of infection remains low, authorities are taking all precautions against the possible spread of the virus, which may impact business operations and disruptions to travel.

What is Cornell doing to protect the campus community?

Cornell is following CDC and WHO guidelines on screening and response protocols along with other measures to protect the health and well-being of our campus community. The CDC guides national testing criteria, and we follow their evidence-based protocols, in collaboration with Tompkins County and NY state public health authorities, when evaluating and supporting patients. As the CDC and WHO issue new guidelines related to screening or testing, Cornell Health will adjust clinical protocols to rapidly identify, evaluate and support patients and the Cornell community.

Are campus events and activities being cancelled?

No, the campus is open, and classes, events, activities and services are operating on a normal schedule. If that were to change, the campus community would be notified immediately. Changes to campus operating status are relayed to the campus community through CornellALERT messages and at https://emergency.cornell.edu. Information regarding changes to individual classes, events and activities is provided by the sponsoring unit.

Will I be penalized if I don’t attend class?

If you feel ill, you should use the same judgment you would normally use about attending class, staying home or seeking medical care. You should always notify your professors if you are unable to attend class for any reason. For specifics about what your college or class requires in order to excuse an absence, please contact your professor or your advising or student services office.

If I see emergency responders on campus wearing masks or other protective clothing, does that mean they are treating someone who has COVID-19?

No. Wearing masks, gowns and gloves are all standard procedures that emergency responders routinely follow when treating any respiratory illness — such as colds, flu and other viral illnesses — and are not specific to COVID-19. Additionally, patients with respiratory illnesses may be asked to wear a mask to reduce the spread of droplets when they cough, sneeze or speak. This is similar to procedures in place at many hospitals and health care facilities, including Cornell Health.

Is it necessary for Cornell students to wear masks? If I do want a mask, where can I get one?

The CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public. We do understand the importance of wearing masks as part of the cultural norms in some communities. However, there are national mask shortages and Cornell must prioritize masks to be available for health care needs within Cornell Health. It is standard procedure at Cornell Health, as with any medical clinic, to ask patients with symptoms to wear masks inside the health care building to reduce spread of any infection. While Cornell Health has a sufficient supply of masks to meet patient care/infection control needs, its pharmacy no longer has the inventory required to support the sale of masks in bulk to the general public.

  • Single masks are available for any individual coming to Cornell Health with symptoms.
  • Ill students requiring additional masks can receive them from a provider during a medical appointment if indicated as part of their illness and recovery process.
  • Individuals wanting to purchase larger supplies of masks are encouraged to look for online sources of supplies.

Are special cleaning products or procedures needed?

At this time, there are no special cleaning products or procedures needed. We will implement any new protocols if they are recommended by the CDC or Tompkins County Health Department.

What counseling and support resources are available at Cornell?

We understand some Cornell community members may feel anxious about this evolving public health situation or have concerns about friends and family living in areas currently experiencing the outbreak.