JOEL MALINA: All right. Let us go ahead and get started. Hello, everyone. I'm Joel Malina. I'm Vice President for University Relations at Cornell. I want to thank all of you for taking the time to join us today for this community town hall.
As you're all aware, for the last number of months, Cornell has had a robust planning effort that resulted last week in an announcement from President Pollack about our plan for the fall. We have had a series of meetings in smaller groups with various communities, which will continue over the coming weeks.
We thought it was important to have this opportunity as well with a larger group, for some questions to be asked and for answers to be provided. This will not be the last such opportunity. We hope to have these as needed every few weeks. Our goal in all of this is to be as transparent as possible.
To provide information recognizing that, at this moment, we don't yet have all the answers that we will have each successive day. But we are certainly happy to be able to present our current thinking and to address the questions that you have on your mind. In just a second, I'm going to introduce the individuals who'll be joining me in presenting today and answering your questions.
I do want to first start by thanking our individuals who are helping us today. In particular, we are going to be recording these proceedings, as well as currently captioning them as well. I want to thank Christy, who is handling the captioning. And also now, I want to just introduce our speakers.
Mike Kotlikoff is the Provost of Cornell University. Marty Stallone is the Chief Executive Officer of Cayuga Health System, the parent company of Cayuga Medical Center, also includes Schuyler Hospital. And Frank Kruppa, who is the Director of the Tompkins County Health Department.
I also want to note, while he will not be speaking formally, he will be available for questions, my colleague Ryan Lombardi, Cornell's Vice President for Student and Campus Life. Before I turn things over to Mike, just a note about when we get to the question and answer portion. When the announcement for this had been circulated, we did offer opportunities for people to submit questions in advance. So we do have a number of those questions.
But we'll also be drawing and going back and forth from questions that are submitted in real time. And we ask that you utilize the Q&A feature. I see we already have five, six questions already submitted. So I'll be alternating from those in the Q&A feature with those that were submitted.
Our hope is to get through as many of these as possible. Let me also say that, to the extent we don't get to all the questions, please reach out to Gary Stewart and his team at Cornell's Office of Community Relations. We are intent on being responsive to all of your questions, regardless of the limitations of our time with you this evening. So with that, let me turn things over to Provost Mike Kotlikoff, who will provide an overview of our plan. Mike?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Thanks, Joel, and good evening, everybody. It's a pleasure to be here with you. As Joel said, we've been working for some time on what is a difficult decision for Cornell about opening. And lots of uncertainties in this situation. This has been a changing landscape over the last several months.
But we began early on starting to think comprehensively about what the situation would be if Cornell were to open, and also what the situation would be if Cornell were not to open. And we had a number of discussions at the state level. I chaired or cochaired a committee of all the independent colleges and universities in New York looking at these issues, looking at all the safety parameters that we'd have to consider before we made this decision.
And also conversations at the federal level, and what could we do on our own regarding testing and making sure that we surveilled our population appropriately. We set up committees that involved students, faculty, and staff, as well as administrators. Those committees worked over the course of the last two months.
We also had numerous conversations with both the panelists here today and other community members about these decisions. And what we've come up with is a plan that I call one with nested safety barriers. It relies on many, many individual features to try and preserve public health.
First and foremost is testing. And we will test individuals before they come back. We will request individuals to have a test and quarantine before they come back. We will test them immediately when they come back. And then we will repeatedly surveillance test them over the course of their time at Cornell.
And I say surveillance testing because it is different than what we've been doing nationally here to for. Much of what we read about is testing for cause, testing individuals once they become symptomatic. We know that younger populations have less symptoms, fewer symptoms, and they often are asymptomatic and transmit virus.
Estimates are up to 50% of the transmissions occur from asymptomatic individuals. So we determined early on that we would really need to surveil our population repeatedly to be able to identify individuals that are positive quickly, isolate them, and avoid the risk to the community of those individuals.
A second barrier is testing individuals, of course, for cause once they have symptoms. So we'll have a daily attestation that has individuals identify whether they have symptoms or not. We have a system in place with Cayuga Medical to identify those individuals, get them tested immediately, and then, of course, contact tracing to try and quarantine the individuals that they've been in contact with.
But in addition to that, we have behavior modifications that we will impose on students, faculty, and staff. Social distancing, travel requirements, facilities changes, changes in our dorms and changes in our teaching spaces. And then plans to protect the most vulnerable among us, those individuals in high risk categories.
So all of this together has led us to a degree of confidence that we can do this and preserve the public safety. I have to say, however, at the same time, we're also highly influenced by the fact that Ithaca has certain unique characteristics. One of which is that over half of our students live off campus.
And we polled our students early on, and we know that many of those students, 50% of those students, or above 50%, said they plan to come back and occupy their leases. Of course, they have leases that they committed to before we closed down in March.
So we also modeled that situation. And it's important to understand, I think for the community, that we're not in a situation where we have an option for zero risk. Because those students coming back, not being part of an open campus where we can constantly surveil them, control their behavior, impose behavioral constraints on those individuals, that itself presents a significant risk to the community.
And that's something that we wanted to avoid. And so by having individuals be part of the residential campus, part of an open campus, we have tools to make sure that the students coming back comply with our rules and make sure they're tested. And then we have a variety of things that we can do to tune that ability to understand the infectivity of our population if we need to.
So with that, I think I've described, in general, the plan. I'll be glad to answer any specific questions about it. But first, I think we're going to hear from Marty and Frank.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you so much, Mike. And just very briefly, among our most important partnerships over these last few months have been the numerous conversations that we've had with Cayuga Health and with the County Health Department. We're very pleased that we have Marty and Frank with us tonight. And we wanted to offer them an opportunity to provide some remarks as well. So Marty, why don't we start with you?
MARTIN STALLONE: Sure. Thank you. And I hope you can hear me all right, Joel, and good evening to everyone. As Joel mentioned, I'm Marty Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health. We're centered, obviously, in Ithaca in Tompkins County. CHS includes the 212 bed hospital, Cayuga Medical Center that most of you are familiar with.
But we also have a partnership with Cayuga Health Partners, our local provider network, and Cayuga Medical Associates, the hospital-owned physician practice of about 150 providers. And so I'm speaking on behalf of those organizations and can answer questions on behalf of the provider perspective.
I certainly want to circle back and thank President Pollack, Provost Kotlikoff, and the entire Cornell team, as well as Frank Kruppa, who have all been amazing collaborators and partners around so many aspects of reactivating the higher education enterprise in our county.
There's a few points I'd like to address directly, and then I'm willing to address any questions on behalf of the medical community about how we're supporting Cornell's plans, and about our readiness to both prevent and then, if need be, respond to COVID infections in the community. First and foremost, we see our mission as assuring high quality and readily accessible hospital services.
This is inpatient, emergency room, and ICU services, as we have seen required in many communities around the country. In accordance with Department of Health requirements, we have established a detailed and vetted search plan that accounts for an increasing number of patients if and when that's needed.
So we progress through different phases of our surge plan as need be. We have three phases, with 162, 251, and 318 beds identified as we have increasing needs. If we go beyond that, there is an identified off-campus location for an additional 40 beds. And the phases account for critical care beds, ICU beds, and also ventilators.
We can support up to 50 ventilated patients. And again, the goal, in conjunction with Cornell and other community partners, is to mitigate spread and not to need that. But I do want to provide assurances that we have that capability if we need it.
The other point I wanted to make is that we're part of a larger medical network of regional providers. So we're not on an island alone. In the same way that we lent, many of you probably know that we lent equipment and personnel to New York City at New York Presbyterian. We've been assured we would receive people and resources if we needed it.
And this can happen with resource sharings. Whether that means ventilators or personnel, anything that's movable, we can exchange with partners. Our physician practices in the community are a trusted source of surge capacity. And we have relationships across upstate New York to the Hospital Association of New York and Iroquois.
So finally, and a last resort, we can always transfer patients to other settings, just as we ourselves took patients from New York City as they were at the peak of their surge. Another point, we've gleaned a lot of lessons from our experience in New York City. Again, you may realize we sent about 55 individuals down to New York, and they came back with not only best practices, but how to handle a surge scenario.
So we were grateful for that experience and what that taught us. And as a separate idea, we also want to provide outpatient support services for anyone who needs it. We do facilitate guidance through the medical system. And we understand that the fall is going to mean flu cases and influenza-like illnesses as they become more prevalent.
We have an already robust and growing telemedicine capacity to guide patients and community members where they need to go, and to answer questions as they arrive. And this is, of course, in partnership with Cornell, and other community partners, and the health department.
And finally, we are going to provide diagnostic COVID testing where it's necessary. We're working with Cornell to design and support an iterative testing process that's safe, efficient, and reassuring for the Cornell community and the community. And this is going to help us understand the prevalence of disease in our community, and mitigate spread through improved social interactions, social distancing, and other hygienic practices.
So there's a lot more I can go into. I'm prepared to answer questions if they arise. But I'll hand it over to-- I think Frank is going to take over.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Marty. Frank Kruppa with the County Health Department. Frank.
FRANK KRUPPA: Thank you, Joel. Thank you for the opportunity to join you all this evening, and thank you for the collaboration that we've had with Cornell. Going all the way back to January when we first began dealing with COVID-19, I think the collaborative effort amongst local health, public health, the health system, and our higher education institutions has really positioned us to have this opportunity to reopen, bring our campuses back to life, and do it safely. And so I appreciate that collaboration.
Dr. Stallone and Cayuga Health Systems have been amazing in their efforts to provide testing availability in our community. And not only is that going to support the reopening efforts, but it has helped us identify cases quickly, and do what is our core public health work of isolation and quarantine.
And I do believe that played a significant role in why our disease levels have been what they have here in Tompkins County, and have remained low, particularly over the last six weeks or so. As everyone's probably aware by now, the health department's main role is in disease surveillance.
So identifying positive cases wherever we can, isolating those individuals to limit exposure to others, and then doing contact investigations to find out any potential exposures that might have occurred before we identified the case, and get those folks into quarantine so we're able to monitor them to make sure they don't get ill.
And if they do, provide them the care that they need. And we have an amazing team of public health nurses that have been working tirelessly since late January on this effort, and continue to do it today. And I know our partnership with Cornell will allow us to amplify our capabilities to do that contact investigation and tracing if we're faced with that.
And understanding that the surveillance program is there to help us do that before, or not having us wait until somebody presents with symptoms to potentially identify them and limit additional exposure. So we appreciate the collaborative effort.
I think Tompkins County is uniquely suited because of the collaboration amongst all of our partners to do these types of plans successfully and safely. And again, I appreciate that collaboration and look forward to continuing it as we move forward.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you very much, Frank. Now we're going to turn to your questions. We have a good 40 minutes. We're going to try to get through as many as possible. Let's start. I've been perusing the questions that have been submitting. There are a few that are more frequently being asked, and let's start with those.
The first one, and I'm going to turn to Ryan Lombardi to answer. These are questions around to what degree is Cornell truly going to be able to impact the behaviors of our students as they come back. 18 to 22-year-olds are notoriously inclined to not necessarily follow directives. What's the plan, Ryan?
FRANK KRUPPA: Joel, sure. Thank you. I'd be happy to answer that. So first of all, I've spoken to a lot of students this summer who are very eager to come back, those who aren't here. And have assured me they'll do just about anything to be back in Ithaca versus being at home doing this at home.
So I want to reiterate, and Mike would emphasize this, I think, the epidemiological modeling that's been done shows that even if we don't have 100% compliance but we still have a high level of compliance, the risk is still lower to have that level of compliance than to have zero oversight whatsoever.
So we go in knowing that. We go in knowing that we want to try to achieve the best compliance possible, but that we are not likely to get 100%. Now, with that said, common public health knowledge is that you always want to focus on upstream preventative efforts.
If you focus just on downstream and reacting to behavior, you're already too late, right? So you think about any other public health issue. You don't just focus on what you're going to do if someone breaks the rule. You focus on what you're going to do to try to prevent that. So we've got kind of a three pronged approach in place and that we're planning here.
The first is we will have a team of public health ambassadors that will be on campus and around campus, who will be serving as an intervention team. Encouraging students to practice good behaviors, also faculty and staff, encouraging compliance with the guidelines and the policies that we've put in place. We think peer to peer influence is very important, so we'll have a large team of students participating in this.
A second prong to the upstream approach is a very aggressive social norms campaign and messaging campaign around what the expectations are, what are the proper behavioral modifications that should be made to support public health, and to make sure that we're really clear and, like I said, very aggressive in putting that on and around campus.
And then the third piece, which starts upstream but moves downstream, is a behavioral compact. We will ask, require, frankly, all of our students, before they return to campus in the fall, we realize some are here now and we will pick those up before classes start, to attest and confirm that they will abide by these public health guidelines. And also understand that there will be consequences if they do not do that.
Now certainly, it's not our goal to have to move into a really punitive set of circumstances here. But we will be prepared to do that if we need to do so. We'll start, of course, with education and reminders, and all the things that you would hope to do. We'll also be involving the parents of students to make sure that we can lean on parents to help reinforce good behaviors for their students, even if they're at a distance.
But we will also be prepared in the most egregious cases to do more severe follow up through our code of conduct, and consider whether or not they should continue to be here in Ithaca and be students at Cornell. Again, not our preference, but we will be prepared to do that.
So this is a multipronged effort. We're going to need to rely on everybody's good sense, civic responsibility. And that really will be a community effort and upon all of us to encourage each other to practice good public health behaviors.
JOEL MALINA: Ryan, one quick follow up. Someone had asked, will this also apply to those living in Greek houses. What is your plan for the fraternity sorority system?
RYAN LOMBARDI: That's a good question, Joel. And in fact, just earlier tonight, we had a webinar with chapter house presidents and advisors. And absolutely, we are actually-- fraternity houses will abide by the same regulations that our on-campus housing will have.
And so dedensified residence hall rooms, strict protocols around bathroom usage, but also a restriction on social events that can happen there and the sizes of those, just like with other public health guidelines. So we're working at partnering with our alumni and the chapter advisors to make sure there's strong compliance there as well.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you. Another common question regards Governor Cuomo's executive order that, just earlier this week, increased to an even larger number of states. How are we, in our planning, incorporating the requirements that Governor Cuomo has established?
Let me answer that. Number one, to be clear, we absolutely will follow not just this executive order, but we've been diligent in following all of the guidance and the orders to date coming out of the governor from New York state.
What we're doing in this case, given the potential for us to perhaps put forward an alternative process that could achieve the same goal with perhaps a bit more flexibility, we are working with other peers throughout New York state in a discussion with the governor's team to see whether there is some alternative approach that would satisfy the same outcomes.
For instance, rather than having individuals from these states arrive and then quarantine for two weeks, could we have them quarantine for two weeks where they live, then as soon as they arrive, have the test and not be let out of quarantine here until that test comes back negative? So we'll learn more about this over the coming weeks.
But certainly, our plan, as with all of the residents of New York, are to follow the guidance and the standards put forward by the state. Let me now go to a few other questions. Here's a question about, will local bars be open, or will they remain closed to help curtail spread of the virus.
A very timely question. Earlier today, Gary Stewart of our community relations team, who is on the call tonight, met with some local leaders to talk about this. These are obviously not decisions that Cornell will make. But this is a good example of important conversations that are happening among municipal leadership, as well as other important stakeholders throughout the communities.
We want to explore and we'll continue to have these conversations around how we can ensure that protocols are in place with a maximum attention to public health as possible. So more to come on that, but it's a very relevant question and one that we are looking at. Going to be one of the questions that was submitted previously.
Mike addressed this initially. Let me just read it and I can summarize. What is sufficiently distinctive or unique about Cornell as opposed to many of our peers who are capping or restricting the number of undergrad students on campus for the fall, or going with a wholly online approach? Let me tackle that.
As Mike suggested, we are not unique, but certainly among most of our ivy league peers that we have so many of our students who live off campus. And that was that element in terms of what we learned about their intents, regardless of whether we were wholly online, of coming back to Ithaca, which led to the formation of the plan that we've been discussing today. So that is pretty much a pretty unique and distinctive element of Cornell when we look at our immediate peers in the ivy league.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Joel, can I add to that a little bit?
JOEL MALINA: Please.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: So one other-- that's, I think, absolutely dead on. And one other difference, really, is our location. We're in a very low prevalence area. Many of our peers are in urban environments with a very much more complicated environment to control the interactions between individuals and the broader community in terms of mass transit and those sorts of things.
So part of our modeling really relies on the fact that we have such a low prevalence in Ithaca. We've done such a good job in Tompkins County and the surrounding counties in keeping prevalence low. And what we're seeing, what we will certainly see is individuals coming into our community from areas that have a higher average prevalence.
And that will almost certainly bring individuals that carry the virus. And so all of our plans are designed to try and identify them, ideally before they come. If they get here, identify them on site and quarantine them on site, and drive this down. And our modeling shows that if we can do this, we can maintain a very low rate of infectivity and mirror our surroundings.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. Here's a question around public reporting of cases. It is in our shared off-campus interests to know about the spread of COVID infections and hospitalizations so that we may better protect ourselves from exposure to COVID. Will Cornell be transparent in regularly reporting staff and student disease data to the public?
Yes, that is our intent. In our last coordinating call, actually, with Marty, and Frank, and a number of my Cornell colleagues last week, we talked about this question. Certainly, there will be appropriately and separate, the information and the data that Frank and the health department will regularly [AUDIO OUT] is our plan on our University Central COVID-19 website, which covid.cornell.edu, to have an area where we will be able to provide ongoing data.
We are prohibited from providing and revealing personal information around individuals, but we will certainly keep a tally of the number of staff, faculty, students who have confirmed cases. And to the extent there are hospitalizations, we can provide that information as well. This will all be done in ongoing coordination with Frank and his team, but it is certainly our intent to do so.
Let me turn to a question now around the local school district. How does Cornell plan to manage if the Ithaca County School District is not open? Sorry to monopolize all the answers, but let me start and see if my colleagues want to share.
I read today that Governor Cuomo expects to release K through 12 guidelines on Monday of next week. And similar to the higher education sector, each individual district will then be submitting plans to the state. Until that is done, we won't know for sure what the parameters will be around our local school district.
But certainly, we have been very sensitive to the dual requirements of our employees with school aged children, and we will make every effort to ensure that there need to be at work does not interfere with their need to provide child care at home. Again, more information to come, but this is absolutely a very relevant and top of mind concern that we will be monitoring.
We talked about the capacity of our hospitals. Thank you, Marty. Here's a question, Mike, for you. How can professors become more comfortable with teaching in-person?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, so I have to back up a little bit. First of all, we've given faculty the option, the following option. And first we polled our faculty about who would feel comfortable teaching in-person and who would not. About a third of our faculty said they look forward to teaching in-person.
About a third of the faculty said they are open to teaching if they deem the conditions safe. And then about a third of our faculty said they're not interested in teaching in-person. And we decided early on to allow faculty to opt out. If they don't feel comfortable teaching in-person, they can opt out.
We're not going to get into the specifics of why. That, of course, many of our faculty are in an age group that makes them more vulnerable to morbidity. So one of the things that we are doing, however, is making sure that if you do go into the classroom, we have safe conditions.
And those conditions include six feet spacing between students and greater distance with faculty with plexiglass shields. It includes everybody wearing masks, and it includes other modifications of the classroom space, whether it's ventilation or other modifications that we can do to make this as safe as possible.
I should also add that we will be testing faculty on a regular basis, faculty and staff, as well as students. So we did not want to get into the issue of convincing people that it's safe if you feel fundamentally that it's not. The tradeoff, though, is if faculty opt out of teaching in-person, they really need to start preparing for a high quality online experience for students.
And work very much not just remote Zooming of them talking and giving a lecture from, say, a living room or a home office, but a real quality online experience. And we've put in place the resources necessary to help faculty do that.
JOEL MALINA: Mike, let me stick with you. A few questions on testing, some specific to our plan to incorporate pool testing, which perhaps you can speak to. And then a question around whether it's realistic to test every five days. Do we need to increase that frequency, as has been recommended by some epidemiologists?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. I'm not sure of the recommendation by epidemiologists. We have been about as aggressive as anyone in this space. And pool testing is simply a way to interrogate a large population efficiently. With low prevalence diseases, if you pool a number of individuals and they are all negative, you can eliminate that pool of individuals.
This is something that the FDA has now approved for surveillance purposes. But I want to make clear, and our conversations with Marty, and Frank, and others, we we've come up with a plan that identifies individuals within pools that are likely to be positive. So if someone in that pool was positive, we then refer those individuals for diagnostic tests, where each individual will have an individual test to determine whether they're positive or not.
So this is simply a way to really surveil the population. Our current modeling and our current plan is to do this once a week for our students, undergraduates, and graduate students. Every student would have a single day of the week in which they would be tested.
However, we can, as has been indicated, go to a higher frequency if we feel that's necessary. And we can also start with-- we'll get information about where positives occur. If, for example, they occur together in dorms, we can make modifications in dorms. We can respond in real time, getting data every day, really, in terms of PCR tests.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Mike. Here's a question which I will answer. It's critical. It really gets to the heart of our approach here. It says, do you believe you have a responsibility to Tompkins County to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when Cornell is in session? What steps are you taking to assist the county in preventing the spread of COVID-19?
Let me say unequivocally that we absolutely recognize the responsibility, I'll say not to prevent, because that may be unrealistic. But everything that we have put into these last few months of planning, in partnership not just with Cayuga Health and with the health department, but in numerous sessions with municipal leaders, with our peers in higher education, with nonprofits, with business, with all of the stakeholders, with neighborhoods across the area.
It's really been about helping all of us collectively to understand this shared responsibility to try to mitigate the spread of the virus in our area. We have all done a phenomenal job, and hats off to Frank, and Marty, and many others too numerous to name, that have resulted in the prevalence being what it is in our county.
Yes, we are talking about significant numbers returning to our area. But as Mike has said at the outset and it is worth repeating again, what we are putting forward here is really about trying to mitigate as much as possible any spread. We want to identify in asymptomatic individuals, do contact tracing, and ensure that those that are infected are not in a position to spread it to others. Mike, Marty, Frank, anything you might like to say about this?
FRANK KRUPPA: I would just add that, as a partner, contact tracing disease investigation is core and our main responsibility. But we've had numerous conversations with Cornell and Cornell Health about getting their folks trained in the Johns Hopkins model so that they would be able to help support us in contact tracing if our resources were exceeded. So we feel confident we have the resources locally to be able to address the disease surveillance needs as we move forward.
MARTIN STALLONE: I'll add I want to-- in addition to what Joel and Frank just mentioned, it was made abundantly clear to me that Cornell's first priority is to protect the community and prevent spread by doing everything within their power, with a keen interest for preserving hospital resources and avoiding the need for hospitalization.
So that was made clear during our first conversation and in almost every conversation. So to the pointed question about Cornell feeling responsibility, I can say as a witness in the discussions with their entire senior leadership team that they've restated that, and it's evident they feel that way.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Let me just also add that these plans has have also been discussed at the state level with state health authorities. And I think it's fair to say that the view here is that we're doing the most prudent thing that we can possibly do. We're mounting a very aggressive testing surveillance regime, really, as a way of assuring our control of public health.
The alternative for us of not doing that, basically saying we're going to be online for the fall semester, and then having students come back into college town and other areas of Ithaca and Tompkins County, for us is a far more dangerous situation. So we keep emphasizing that, but I think it bears repeating that we're not in a situation where we can choose the zero risk option.
JOEL MALINA: A number of questions around Ithaca College and whether Cornell is coordinating with them and whether they're going to be incorporating a similar testing regime. Let me just say, before then turning it over, perhaps, to Marty and Frank, we have been regularly coordinating with Ithaca College, as well as with Tompkins Cortland Community College at the presidential level, at the provost level, at the vice presidential level.
We are planning, probably in August, for us to do one of these town halls with all three institutions involved. That's already being planned, and we'll hopefully be able to get out with information on that. But I don't know, Marty or Frank, if there's anything that you feel you can share about your discussions with IC, or Mike, anything that you might share, or Ryan.
MARTIN STALLONE: I can jump in and just say unequivocally, my comments about Cornell's commitment to the community apply to Ithaca College entirely. They've made that clear, and we are working in close coordination with them to design a similar but tailored to their needs testing program.
And we'll be doing other testing at their campus with a similar goal of identifying asymptomatic individuals and preventing spread. So they've been wonderful partners in addition. I know this is a Cornell forum, but similar comments can be reasonably made about Ithaca College.
FRANK KRUPPA: Yeah. And as a county, we certainly have significant interest in how all of our higher ed addresses the fall semester. And I would second what Dr. Stallone just said. We've had regular calls with all of higher ed together. I talk to them individually multiple times a week to answer questions and navigate through their planning.
And so I think there is an interest in having uniformity wherever it makes sense, understanding that all three higher ed are different types of organizations and are doing what is best for their faculty, staff, students, as well as us as a community.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you. Ryan, I'm going to ask you this one. It's a combination of a few questions, really coming down to our approach to visitors, specifically parents. One question is, given the staggered nature of the moving process and that there is a large student population living off campus, would you consider allowing at least one parent or guardian to help out freshmen inside residence halls on moving day?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Yep. So we've announced our intentions for move in. And those, of course, are subject to change as we see how things evolve here over the coming weeks, as has been discussed. But at this point, we are saying that we will not be allowing parents to enter into the residence halls.
Doesn't mean a parent can't come to Ithaca, help unload the vehicle, see their child off. But we are going to prevent them from going into the residence halls. Again, we think that is the most prudent decision in terms of keeping people outside. We certainly recognize the emotional impact of that.
You know, sending your student off to college and wanting to be a part of seeing their room and that. I have young kids, and one day I will do that myself and look forward to it. And I certainly empathize with the fact that those parents won't be able to do that. But at this point, we have to say that they will not be in the residence halls.
JOEL MALINA: And I should just add, we are going to be very clear in our travel and visitors policy. We don't anticipate having any in-person campus tours. We've actually had some very good success mounting virtual tours, actually, with our student tour guides providing those virtual tours. And that is how we'll be approaching tours for this coming semester as well.
And we'll be releasing more information about our travel and visitors policy. We've had a number of questions about our basing our decision in large part on the Cornell student survey, which, according to those who have asked, is sufficiently outdated in terms of the responses having been given prior to the latest increase of cases throughout parts of the country.
So I guess it's a question, maybe, for Mike, for Ryan. How confident are we in the survey results? Is there any thinking around, perhaps, additional surveys?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, we asked the students what they were going to do. That's the best we can do. I do think it is reasonable to think that some of those students may not come back, even though they said they would come back.
One of the things that we push on in the modeling was, what if that number is way high? What if we say half of the number that say they're coming back would actually come back? What if it's half of that? What if it's a quarter?
It turns out that these two situations don't get close to being the same until the number drops to about 5,000 students coming back. Now, we have 9,000 graduate students at Cornell. We know that we're going to have many more than 5,000 students come back to Ithaca.
So I do think we've, in these parameters, you can-- and I see a lot of questions about individual assumptions. In all of these, we've tested. We've looked at them very hard. Martha is quite skeptical. A lot of things pushes this very hard. And we've gone back and really tested our assumptions over and over again.
RYAN LOMBARDI: I would just echo Mike's statement with a couple of other anecdotes. And one is that I have an extensive amount of communication and contact with students, and pretty much to a person, they say and have indicated plans to be back in Ithaca regardless of whether we were online or not.
I'll also say I've seen many comments speaking to the fact that folks have witnessed many students already in Ithaca this summer and being around. And so I think the proof, we see it out right now, that there are people here in Ithaca. A lot of graduate students, but also a number of undergraduates. And so I think the model is really reasonable in suggesting, and the survey was reasonable in suggesting that a significant percentage of students would have been at Ithaca either way.
JOEL MALINA: That's actually a good segue to the next question. How are community members to report unsafe behaviors by students? Should they be contacting law enforcement? Is there another service? What resources are available to the community?
Let me start, and I'll answer that and I'll see if my colleagues want to add anything. We're actually going to be going out with a message likely this week around the importance of a shared responsibility. We are going to be likely encouraging members of our community, if they see unsafe behavior, to actually engage in conversation from a distance to encourage those individuals to follow the clear guidelines.
That being said, there will always be situations where that won't be effective. Certainly for on-campus violations, there are resources. Cornell University police can certainly be contacted. Office of Community Relations, Gary Stewart's team, can certainly be contacted.
For off-campus experiences, importantly, our Cornell University police don't have the jurisdiction to enforce off-campus laws and public health regulations. But our police department, our teams, as we've talked about a lot tonight, work quite closely with the city of Ithaca, the village of Cayuga Heights, the town of Ithaca, with their police departments.
The Tompkins County Sheriff's department. There are lots of opportunities for residents, the general public, to raise awareness of some of these behaviors. Again, our goal is to try to minimize them by, frankly, engaging and discussing, and having this compact that we are planning on putting some real teeth behind in terms of consequences.
And then, of course, I would say that the County Health Department and Frank should always be a point of contact for public health implications and behavioral issues. But we're talking a lot about this. We certainly don't want to have to be dealing with [AUDIO OUT] we hope there won't be. But then again, we want to be sure that all residents have opportunities to express concerns to the extent that they are aware of them. I don't know if anyone else wants to speak to any of that.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Joel, can I just add something there? Which is that we are creating also an online web forum where people will be able to report instances where they see concerning things. Even if those are not things that we can take immediate action on, because that data is important for us to know if there are spots and areas of our community where, perhaps, we're not seeing compliance.
And we can deploy our public health ambassadors. We can put a little more effort into education in that space. We think that's really important. Again, if we need to take more serious action, we're willing to do that. But I don't think we want to be using a lot of police resources unless there are laws being broken and things like that.
So it's really important that we focus on the upstream. I'm also really sensitive to deploying police resources in a time right now where there's a lot of angst and concern around police intervention in nonviolent crimes. And so we want to make sure that we're thoughtful about the way we do this, and that we support our community, our whole community, Cornell, which is a very global and diverse community. So we need to be very thoughtful about that as well.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Ryan. Here's a question, Frank, for you and the health department. I believe this was submitted by a local landlord. Is there a way to order or buy the small spray bottles of hand sanitizer that you supply essential workers for our off-campus tenants?
FRANK KRUPPA: We do, I believe, have hand sanitizer still available. There is a form on the health department website for folks to apply to. It is the New York State-developed hand sanitizer. And so folks, if they have a need, should submit there. I will say those supplies are limited. But as long as we have them, we will distribute them.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Frank. Question, Mike. What happens to instruction if a faculty member were to test positive?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Well, if a faculty member tests positive, we would substitute another faculty member for that and make sure that we continue to have appropriate instruction for the students.
JOEL MALINA: Here's a question about the recent US Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines about international students taking virtual courses. This was announced on Monday. President Pollack actually issued a statement strongly condemning this order earlier today.
The question is, will this ban on students taking virtual courses affect Cornell? What about other visa policies? Our Office of Global Learning, I want to give kudos to Vice Provost Wendy Wolford and her team. They've done a fabulous job over a number of months and years helping our international students with a number of visa, immigration policy, and related challenges.
Specific to this announcement earlier this week, more than likely, for a large part of Cornell students, they will not be impacted because of our announced hybrid approach to learning. But that is not to say there may be, as we've made clear, we may need to alter our approach depending on the progress of the virus.
And there could be a future scenario whereby we would, perhaps, shift to all online, which could, in fact, then result in our international students being impacted. So we are strongly advocating with our elected representatives. Working as well the legal system.
We're going to be joining with other peer institutions in an amicus brief in a suit that Harvard and MIT have filed to try to render the ICE guidelines null and void. So we'll see how that plays out. But clearly, this is yet another impact that we are working diligently to try to address.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Joel, may I make a comment on this too?
JOEL MALINA: Please.
RYAN LOMBARDI: I do want to be transparent about this. Many of you may know that in the spring when we had to close the campus and move online, we did make accommodations for students who weren't able to travel home, international students. But also students, frankly, who don't have a safe home environment or a home environment that's conducive to learning. Cornell is proud to admit students of low socioeconomic backgrounds. And in many cases, it's a much more safe environment for them to be at Cornell and a more productive learning environment.
It is our plan, post Thanksgiving, although most students, we anticipate, returning to their permanent residence, to have a similar exception process for those students who might be challenged about being able to leave, again, international students, or, again, our low income students or other students with unique circumstances. It's critically important that we support all of our students here at Cornell to the best of our ability, and provide that equitable access to education.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Ryan. And that was actually a question that was just typed in. So thank you for addressing that. This is interesting. First, kudos on promoting, engaging in dialogue. As you are asking the community to help reinforce the need for safe behavior by students, will you provide copies of the social contract, the compact, to us all so that we can be an effective partner in this regard?
I don't know, Ryan, whether we've contemplated that. But maybe this is something that we could make public in terms of the text. But that's something, perhaps, we can talk about. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Yeah. We've certainly taken that under consideration. I will share that we gave students a broad overview of what that compact will entail. Just, I believe it was last week, Joel, when my message went out. And that's available publicly on the COVID website. You can see the list of general things. It's not the actual compact, but it was a preview of what will be to come.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you. Let me see. We've gotten through a lot of these, but there are still some more. We have about six minutes left, so let's use those minutes. Ryan, can you address dining? How difficult will it be to get a reservation in the dining hall? And if students cannot eat in the dining hall, where can they eat?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Sure. So the dining team, among many essential workers on campus and elsewhere, have just been doing incredible work these past months. And I just want to give a shout out to all of our frontline staff who have continued to come to work throughout the pandemic.
I also want to acknowledge the dining staff for their work in partnership with GIAC, and now donating upwards of 100,000 meals to local Ithaca citizens during this pandemic. They've just been truly extraordinary heroes on our campus here. They are preparing lots of plans to offer takeout grab and go.
And as has been indicated, a reservation system using a proprietary software that we've partnered with. It's a commercial software, actually, that many of you will be familiar with when you hear it when we announce that. But that will allow students to understand what the capacity limits are in a space in real time, make reservations.
Of course, we have to dedensify our dining halls. But we're very confident that we can provide the amount of food necessary to keep our students nourished and healthy during the semester. It's a very big lift, but we've got an amazing team in Cornell Dining that's prepared for that this fall.
JOEL MALINA: Thank you, Ryan. Here's a question about students arriving. If a freshman flies into Ithaca solo, due to the travel ban, will you have support for them when they arrive? For example, will they be greeted? Will there be a staging place until their move in time occurs?
RYAN LOMBARDI: We will work as a part of moving process to support students traveling in via airplane from, whether it's Ithaca, whether it's Syracuse, other places. We routinely run bus service and other transportation modalities to make that happen. But we'll also be staggering move in, so we won't have as many students arriving at any one given time so that we can better control that.
Part of move in too, and this goes, I think, to the parent question before. We'll be asking students to limit the belongings they bring this fall. It will not be like a typical semester where the U-Haul truck rolls up and has a big load of things that we spend all day unpacking.
So we're going to ask students to limit their belongings. If they want to ship extra things, they can certainly do that to the residence hall. All of those details will be provided to new students, to continuing students, in the coming week that we send this information directly from our housing office.
JOEL MALINA: Yes, go ahead.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: I was just going to add, we haven't discussed the calendar. And it's probably well known. But we are going to limit-- one of the steps we're taking is, ending at Thanksgiving, having our students leave and then come back in the spring semester.
That solves a number of problems. It addresses the issue of the flu season and overlap with flu. It also really simplifies this in and out process here. And so the whole plan is really one intake, very careful gateway testing, and a controlled intake. Test, keep infections low during that period of time.
Then students return. Then we'll address the spring semester. That will be delayed. And we'll see what our situation then is relative to vaccinations and prevalence, et cetera, in the country.
JOEL MALINA: I think we have time for one more question, and this has been asked by a few folks. It has to do with if students, or for that matter, I think any member of our community who doesn't live here. [AUDIO OUT] where will this take place?
Students quarantined in residence halls, will they moved to a separate location? There have been prior mentions of utilizing hotels. What is the current plan? Where would this physically take place?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Want to take that, Ryan?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Sure, but I missed the beginning part of your question, Joel. You were cutting out a little bit. I'm sorry.
JOEL MALINA: Sorry about that. If students are asked to quarantine, where will this take place?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Sure. So we have a combination. And we had to do this in the spring semester, so we have experience with this. We have a combination of spaces identified on campus that are used for quarantine that are separated from other residential areas.
And we have also partnered with local hotels to provide quarantine spaces for students. The local hotels have been great partners, and it worked very effectively in the spring semester. And we've established those partnerships again for the coming semester.
JOEL MALINA: And with that, we've reached the 8 o'clock hour. I want to thank all of you for participating, for taking the time this evening. I want to thank Mike, and Ryan, and Marty, and Frank for their time.
Again, I would encourage you to regularly check out the Cornell COVID website, covid.cornell.edu. That is really where we are going to be including and adding all of our updates. That's also where you'll be able to see all of our communications to various members of our community.
As I mentioned at the outset, to the extent that you had questions that were not answered, or if you have additional questions, please reach out to Gary Stewart and his team. And we'll be out more broadly with information about future forums, as well as additional rounds of smaller group meetings in various neighborhoods throughout our region. Thank you all very much, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your evening. Take care.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Good night, everybody.
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Cornell led a virtual town hall July 8 for the greater Ithaca/Tompkins County community, featuring remarks from Mike Kotlikoff, provost, Cornell University; Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, Cornell University; Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, Cornell University; Dr. Martin Stallone, CEO of Cayuga Health System and president of Cayuga Medical Associates; and Frank Kruppa, Tompkins County Public Health Director.