AVERY: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's town hall on reactivating the Ithaca campus for fall of 2020. Today's panelists for the town hall are Michael Kotlikoff, provost; Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education; Gary Koretzky, the vice provost for academic integration; and Ryan Lombardi, the vice president for student and campus life.
We have a large number of questions that were submitted to the survey, and we only have an hour together. The questions were collected as of 11:30 last night. So if you submitted anything post-that, we weren't able to get it. I'm going to try to get to as many of them as possible while trying to address some of the major themes in the questions. We'll also be monitoring the chat for others as they come in and try to get to them as well.
So we have a short time together. So let's get started with the first question to Provost Kotlikoff. As the students return to Ithaca and as the number of states on the New York state quarantine list continues to shift, can you tell us the plans for coordination and communication with the community to prepare for their arrival?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Sure. Thanks, Avery. And welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining and for everything you're doing in terms of helping us to begin our fall semester. I know that many of you read the op ed from Vice President Lombardi and me explaining our quarantine shift. I'll just very briefly say that as the number of quarantine states grew, it exceeded our capacity for hotel rooms to be able to house students from quarantine states in a manner that complies with New York State regulations. That is single-room, single-bathroom for every individual in quarantine. And the only way we could do that would be to spread students in Syracuse and Binghamton in hotels. We just felt that that would create tremendous problems with supervision and not the right way to for individuals, particularly freshmen to begin their college careers.
So we've urged students from those states to delay their arrival in Ithaca that we believe will de-densify our community somewhat. We've made exceptions. We're very concerned about equity, and we've made exceptions around hardship to be able to have individuals quarantine in our dorms, but we have a limited capability of that and for this single-room, single-bathroom requirement. And of course, we also have concerns from other faculty that are residential advisors about quarantining students in a dense way where their families are living and they're living as well.
So that caused our change in quarantine policy. We've had a number of conversations with the county, with the city, particularly with the county in terms of the county administrator, Jason Molino, and the Tompkins County Health Department, Frank Krupa, who oversees that. He's the director of Tompkins County Health. And we tried to coordinate. I won't say that we've been exactly on the same page at all times. I've made a commitment, Ryan, and others, to communicate more often with them and make sure that they're aware of everything that we do beforehand. And we've had a number of discussions about that, and we're also making sure that they see our communications in a timely way so they agree with them. But we are in general agreement about our testing program, about our quarantine program and requirement, and where these issues become nuanced and difficult we coordinate. I know that Gary meets with Frank Krupa on a weekly basis now, and a number of us are having ongoing conversations with the county and the state about how to meet these requirements.
AVERY: Great. Thank you, Mike. So I want to move now to Gary for this next question. The university announced a testing strategy as part of the reopening. Can you clarify which groups of the campus community will be tested and with what frequency?
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. Sure, Avery. A really, really important question, and I know one that's been on the minds of many individuals. And we haven't described exactly, because we've been working on this and I think have really made a lot of progress. I'll just say that the testing, to remind everybody, will have different components. So if you feel ill, if you've been in contact with somebody, if there's some reason of suspicion, well, everybody can get tested. Students can get tested at Cornell Health. Faculty and staff, employees can get tested at the Ithaca mall. This is all done in collaboration with Cayuga Medical Center, and there should be a really low threshold for that.
I think the question is really around surveillance testing. And we have been informed through modeling, through Peter Frazier's model, but also with colleagues at other institutions around the country, and we are coming up now with a paradigm where individuals will be tested at different frequencies based on what we think the risk is likely for COVID. So for example, right now the plan is for undergraduates to be tested twice a week, and those will be all undergraduates. If there are graduate students who have close contact with undergraduates, they're TAing labs, or they're TAing other environments where there are lots of interactions, or if they're undergraduates who have a lot of classwork and they're interacting with a lot of their peers in different groups, those individuals will also be tested twice a week, as will faculty and staff who have particularly close interactions with the larger community.
Others will be tested once a week. So those will be individuals that are on campus every day. Perhaps you're running your lab and you work with a relatively small lab group, but it's every day interactions. You are on campus every day. That would be a faculty member, graduate students in a similar circumstance. They would be tested once a week. We know that they're individuals who come to campus rarely, but are still coming to campus, and those individuals will be tested we think on a schedule of about twice a week. Now, this is not written in stone yet. This is where we are right now in our thinking. We're still looking at all of the different parameters, but that's what we expect that you can find as the semester starts.
AVERY: Thanks, Gary. So let's go to a question that is directed to Lisa. When will the information on the Fall 2020 class days, times, and their modes of delivery be available to faculty?
LISA NISHII: OK. Thanks for the question. So the modes of delivery for the different courses have already been determined. We have this information from department chairs and other departmental point people we've been working with pretty much constantly on a daily basis for about a month now. And we have a course list that we have shared with a departmental point people. I can also put in a link in our chat here. We will be sharing that link with students tomorrow. For now, it's just a list of the courses that will be offered and the modalities of those courses, with the caveat that there are still some things being revised around the edges.
As for the scheduling component, we are waiting for the last piece of input from departments, which we will receive tomorrow. And once we have that, we will be able to complete the scheduling and report these meeting times back to departments next week to share with faculty.
AVERY: Great. Thanks, Lisa. So I think we're really eager to hear from Ryan with regards to the students coming back, and so this next question is directed to him. The university announced the student behavioral compact yesterday. How will the university manage enforcement of the compact?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Avery. Happy to address that, and just want to say hello to everyone. Thanks for letting me join you all today. I appreciate it. So many of you saw the compact, and I'm happy to talk a little bit about our overall principles with this. I mean, it's important for me to frame this and make clear that we're using a public health approach to behavior. We know that we should focus the vast majority of our efforts on upstream interventions, where we're trying to help students understand the right actions to take and the right behavior to model. Having said that, there will also be an enforcement part, which I'll talk about here.
One thing I want to contextualize is that, while for faculty and staff we saw just the compacts or the actual abroad high-level policies that are in place, I want to make a couple of points. Students actually also had to take a course through the reentry checklist. It's about a 45- to 60-minute tutorial put together by our public health professionals. They then had to pass a quiz as a result of that course. And then, finally then, a test to the compact that everybody saw. So there's multiple components to this, and I wanted to be sure to articulate that.
And now that that is out, let me tell you a little bit about enforcement and other strategies we'll be employing. You saw reference to the Cornell Compact Compliance Team, C3T. Of course we always make acronyms at Cornell. This is a team of staff across the institution that will be responding to reports of those students who do not follow public health guidelines. Sanctions will depend on the infraction and what is happening. Certainly we want to take an educational developmental approach to this, but we also know that behavior modification is important. And if necessary and when necessary, those consequences will escalate. The most egregious consequences will be referred to the Office of the Judicial Administrator, where tools such as suspension and those types of tools are available, and also that students have appropriate due process in that regard. Lower offenses will be handled, as indicated yesterday, within the C3T team and handled swiftly in that regard.
Let me talk a little bit too, Avery, about how we're going to try to keep eyes on the campus. This is a tricky thing, because we're keeping the campus relatively de-densified, but it's important that we have people out and about. So we're going to have a couple of teams of folks on campus. One is a public health ambassador team. So we've got a large group of students who have volunteered to set up stations on campus in various parts of campus promoting good public health behaviors, handing out masks, if necessary, and really trying to encourage peers to practice good behavioral techniques.
But then we're also building another team, and this is our behavioral compact monitors, and this is more of a proactive intervention team. So this is a group of students and staff who will be roving the campus in different quadrants and addressing misbehavior that they see in real time. So if they were to see students who weren't practicing guidelines, they would intervene, ask them to modify their behavior, and hopefully the students would comply. If that weren't to happen, they would report them, file a report about them so that the C3T team could appropriately follow up.
I won't go into too much more detail because I know we have a lot of questions, but I did want to give that high-level overview. I do want to emphasize, though, this is going to require really community-wide responsibility for us all to both practice and promote good public health guidelines here. No one team, no one group of people will solve this individually. So it will take us all being a part of this collective.
AVERY: Thanks, Ryan. So I see questions are coming in fast and furious in the Q&A, and you're getting some of those answered as well. But there's one question that's been burning that I thought I'd ask Mike with regards to being able to get an exception from the state of New York with a student traveling from restricted states. And then, related to that question, has Cornell's reactivation plan been approved by the New York State Department of Health?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah, great question. So I answered Chris there. We've had a number of discussions, particularly around a test-out option, because we are planning on testing intensively in this surveillance program, which has had approval from New York state. So let me just give a little detail there.
We've asked, for example, if we could test students on day one entry, on day three, and on day six, and then release at that point. And we've gotten a clear answer of no so far. We're still pushing, but that was most recently with a direct conversation with New York State Department of Health. We had a phone call this week.
There's a lot of reluctance. There was one exception that the governor made for pro ball players, pro baseball players, but beyond that, they've been very firm about this. I should say that Connecticut initially said they would have a test-out policy, and then they reverted under pressure from their health department to a non-test-out policy. And their rationale when you talk to them about it is the fact that people can turn positive late after an inspection. So even though it's a low number of individuals, they can turn positive, become symptomatic day 11, or 12, or 13. It becomes a very low percentage of the number of infected people, but they're worried about it. We made the argument that since we're testing every three days, that testing scheme is actually safer than the risk of noncompliance for quarantine, which the state is seeing, but we have not been successful in changing their minds.
On the other question, yes, we early on had conversations with New York State Department of Health about our surveillance program. They agreed with the surveillance program, and in fact, they've helped us, because Wadsworth, the New York state testing facility, central testing facility, sent us samples so that we could calibrate and validate our surveillance testing program. We're fully aligned with that, and I think they're very pleased that we've taken this approach. You see some other colleges and universities that simply can't mount this kind of testing program, or started late, or have relied on outside vendors who really have delayed testing, all of which I think has put Cornell in a very good position relative to our peers.
AVERY: Great. Thanks, Mike. I think that answers a number of the questions that we got earlier. So I want to direct my next question to Gary. So the testing, original testing, was quite unpleasant. And for the frequency of testing that we're imagining, it would seem that we want to have something that was a little bit easier. I know that the proposal is testing on anterior nares. So there's a question about what is the false negative rate for that modality of testing.
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. So obviously a really important question to everybody, Avery. And so maybe I'll just frame this, as I think many people know that the typical or standard of testing for COVID is with nasopharyngeal testing, and that involves a swab that is put quite far back into the nose. It's uncomfortable for many people. And we realized from the very beginning as we were imagining our testing, and in particular the surveillance program, that a very, very important element of this is compliance, and compliance in a way where individuals don't feel like they're being tortured once a week, twice a week, or whatever the frequency of testing was going to be.
So it was a really high priority for us to determine whether there was another testing modality that would give us what we needed, which was both compliance, but also the sensitivity so that we would be able to detect people that were infected with COVID. And we did this together with partners, our partners at Cayuga Medical Center. We compared nasopharyngeal testing with interior nares testing. The methodology that we used is that as Cayuga Medical Center identified individuals that were positive for nasopharyngeal testing, they were asked, these individuals, if they would consent, and the ones that we tested, of course, did, to have repeat nasopharyngeal testing a few days later along with the interior nares, and I'll also tell you saliva and sublingual, under-the-tongue, testing.
And then we compared all four, and we found that if you were nasopharyngeally positive on day one, when you went back and were tested day four, about 75% of the people were still positive, and more than 60% of those people were also positive with anterior nares. So again, with Peter's help, and thinking about it, and doing the sensitivity analysis and the likelihood of compliance, we determined that we were now able to go forward with anterior nares testing. This was done in a conversation with Cayuga Medical Center, and also with Tompkins County Health. So I met with Frank Krupa just this week, as Mike said, and we went through all of the data and all of our validation data in our planning.
So the way we're proposing to do this now, because it's a lot easier to do swabbing-- anterior nares is the front of the nose-- a lot easier to do this by self-collection, we will have a combination of observed self-collection, as well as having individuals collect on their own if, for some reason, it's difficult or impossible for them to come to campus for the collection. So we believe that this will make it much, much easier on our entire community without sacrificing the sensitivity that we need as long as we have the compliance with the frequency that's so important for the testing.
AVERY: Great. Thanks, Gary. That was very helpful. Lisa, question for you. What percentage of the classes in the roster are in-person?
LISA NISHII: So what we're seeing in the data is that a little bit less than a third of courses have an in-person component, but it varies a little bit when you look at different types of course components, and by that I mean lectures, discussion sections, lab, and seminars. And then it also differs a little bit across the years.
So what we see is that a little bit less than a third of lectures have some portion that's in-person, so in-person or hybrid. But for seminars it's about 15%. So it's smaller. And labs are more like two-thirds of labs are in-person. And it varies a little bit, like I said, across the course years. When we look at first-year writing seminars, a little bit more than 80% of them will be taught online this year.
AVERY: Thanks, Lisa. So I want to move to Ryan with a question around students who live in Ithaca, who have not necessarily left the area since March. What is their quarantine expectations, if any, and especially if they've already done the Cornell tests, COVID tests?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Avery. Yeah, we encouraged all incoming students to self-quarantine. That's something we think is just good practice. But we certainly recognize cases like this, someone living in Ithaca. In fact, my next door neighbor is an incoming first-year student. His mother is a professor here at Cornell, and he asked me about this next door in the backyard the other day. So I can attest that he's been there the whole time. But no, there's no hard and fast requirement with that. Again, we're just encouraging people to be mindful, even if they're coming from a local area, from an area that's not in a travel advisory, and practice that self-quarantine.
AVERY: Thanks, Ryan. So this is a question that comes in a number of different forms and I think is probably foremost on many of our minds. So I'm going to pose this one to Mike. What is plan B in essence? So what is the plan if we're not able to control the virus significantly in our community?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. And it's a really important question. So let me just sort of outline the things that we will be monitoring, and what we will be looking for, and what will trigger concern, and then a number of steps that we can take to respond to that all the way up to closing the campus and sending students away. But the thing that we will, of course, be watching new cases emerging, positives emerging, the percent of positives out of the sampling that we've been taking, the emergence of symptoms, so morbidity, the emergence of disease, as well as, of course, hospitalizations.
The most significant thing here and the thing that we want to avoid-- we know that when students come back to Ithaca, there's so many students, they're coming from so many places, some of them will bring infection back to Ithaca. There's no doubt about that. It's the reason we're testing on entry, we're asking them to get tested before they come, and then testing on entry and starting this surveillance program.
The key thing, though, that we have to avoid is community spread. So we have to make sure that individuals that are infected don't spread it to two, three, four, other individuals and start to get this exponential growth of infection that is dangerous. We've been very fortunate heretofore in Tompkins County in that whenever we've had spikes-- we've had a few spikes-- they've come back down, they have not spread and gone exponential. We've been able to control this through our behaviors.
We have to watch that very carefully. If that begins to grow and the individuals that are infected start to infect others, this is quantified by r naught or r0. That is the key number, and we've asked Peter now to try and quantify-- We have a number of options we can take. If that spread is occurring, for example, in a dorm, we can isolate the dorm. We can have them shelter in place. But if it's beyond that, we may have to take measures. We want to know what that r0 quantity would be where we should say to the campus, OK, no more in-person classes, everybody's sheltering in place. And then, if that's not controlling, we basically close the campus down.
So the key thing here that everybody will be really having eyes on and concentrating on is not the number of cases. And I say that because we know that we will have a spike in cases that we will see as students come back, and that will alarm people. What we know is that if we weren't testing, we wouldn't see that spike in cases. It would be more dangerous, because we couldn't isolate and make sure those people were out of circulation. But for faculty, I would focus more on this r0 and this community spread, which is what we will be calibrating and watching very closely.
AVERY: Thanks, Mike. So I want to move to Gary, and this is a question about contact tracing. So can you tell us a bit about the contact tracing program?
GARY KORETZKY: Sure. And this actually is a perfect follow-on to what Mike was saying. And to just define terms-- So when somebody is identified to be COVID-positive, that individual is isolated, and we have plans for ensuring that those individuals will be isolated in a place where they can be cared for should they become ill. But a very, very important part to all of this is that we then have to identify the individuals with whom that index case, that person was found to be positive, had interacted.
And the assumption is made that if somebody tests positive and they're asymptomatic, they may have interacted with others while infected for 48 hours or so before they were found to be positive. Or, if they're symptomatic, certainly the 48 hours before they were symptomatic and then were tested to be positive. And then, of course, any interaction after they were tested positive before they were put into isolation.
Now, according to our county rules, Tompkins County Health Department is responsible for the contact tracing. So what will happen is if an individual is found to be positive, Tompkins County Health will interview that individual and help them remember all of the individuals with whom they have interacted. And those individuals will then be contacted, many will be tested, and there will be then a lot of conversation about symptoms or other events that might have occurred that would have brought people together.
We, meaning now mostly folks at Cornell Health, have been trained to do contact tracing as well, and there's a collaboration between Tompkins County Health and Cornell Health so that we will be able to take on some of that role for contact tracing. This is particularly important, because we understand the lifestyle perhaps better of individuals and where contacts might have occurred that might have been less clear to folks at Tompkins County Health. So the plan will be to do this in a collaborative way, where Tompkins County Health will take the lead, as they are required by law, but they'll be using Cornell Health as an adjunct and as a partner so that we identify all of those contacts so they can be tested to exactly do what Mike said, and that is help us get a window into the r0. Because the real question is that if you're infected, are you infecting others before you're identified and then isolated.
AVERY: Thanks, Gary. If I can just ask you a quick follow-up question-- So what's the turnaround time on the test? It seems that that's going to be critical for your contact tracing.
GARY KORETZKY: Absolutely essential. So let me just say as we were imagining this testing program, that was a key element. It doesn't do you very much good if you test somebody and they don't know the answer for days and they're out in the community while they're interacting with other individuals. And one of the options of course that we considered was using a vendor from outside of the area. There are lots of industries now that are very eager to test people, but the turnaround time for that just would not have been acceptable. So part of our discussion with Cayuga Medical Center and part of the imperative for our own laboratory-- we will be doing the surveillance testing in our own laboratory at the vet school, and that turnaround time will be less than 24 hours. So that was a critical element that we had to put into place before we felt comfortable going forward with this program.
AVERY: Thanks, Gary. There's a lot of questions around that. So I'll return back to you on that point, but I wanted to just quickly turn to Mike and ask a question about whether the tests and the rates will be publicly posted.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: You mean the infection rate, I assume, or the positive rate?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: We will have a dashboard. There is a certain amount of information that is restricted, et cetera, but we will try and be as transparent as possible in terms of the identified data. Of course, all of the positives that are identified in Tompkins county are all on the New York state work plan website. So everybody can see this, and we will be seeing those positives as we go forward. We're on this dashboard. We'll also be monitoring things like hospitalizations, things like appearance of symptoms, et cetera, and be clear about that. The key thing here is in terms of the results of our diagnostic tests. Those will be available to the community. We'll all see that.
AVERY: Great, thanks. So I want to move to a question to Lisa, and this is a question about the rooms. When will we know which rooms the university will be using for the classes? And also, related to that question, some faculty want to use outdoor spaces. Will those be reservable?
LISA NISHII: Great questions. We are working really hard, still working really hard to determine the final list of classrooms or rooms that can be used for classes. This is an evolving landscape. As I've mentioned before, each room needs to be measured and cleared for HVAC. And so there are a lot of steps involved here, a lot of units involved. And so we don't yet have all the data for all the classrooms, and we simply can't assign the classes to classrooms until that has been cleared. So we're working around the clock, but our goal date for that to share that is two weeks from tomorrow. So next week we'll add, on top of the course list with the modalities, the scheduling, like I said, the meeting times, and then the week after the classroom spaces.
As for outdoor spaces, this is also an ongoing conversation. We ran into some snags along the way. There are some regulatory barriers associated with putting tents up on a more permanent basis. But various units are looking into alternative creative ways to use outdoor spaces, for example, empty parking lots or garages. So stay tuned for more information about that.
And we are still also working on developing or adapting a reservation system that we have in place right now, but isn't used across the university. So adapting that for use and reserving spaces within larger spaces, which is different from reserving a room. But I don't think that outdoor spaces will ultimately be included in that.
In general, I think the context of this question when it came in last night was about faculty interest in holding office hours outdoors. And in general, we urge faculty to be really conservative, especially in the beginning, about having in-person meetings, and to have a virtual office hours whenever possible. That also limits the congestion as students may be waiting for their turn. But if you do meet in-person, there will be larger rooms than the regular normal faculty office to allow more distancing.
And also, if you meet outside, what we do ask is that you model the behavior, the safety behaviors that we expect of students as well. So of course proper mask wearing and ample distancing between you and the student. So stay tuned. I know it sounds like we keep saying stay tuned for more. There is more we're working through. So we will continue to share that as things solidify. Thanks.
AVERY: Thanks, Lisa. So Ryan, this is a question for you, and it's really this intersection between the behavioral compact that the students have been given and encouraging good behavior. So if the student's [INAUDIBLE], they may not want to admit their contacts. How do you plan to manage that process?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Avery. Appreciate you asking this, or whoever asked it, because it gives us a chance to focus on this. This is one of the reasons why it's so important to take an educational and developmental approach. Of course, there is a temptation for us to create an "if this, then that" scenario and have it be very punitive. No mask, then boom, this happens. But the question articulated here is exactly why we need to have this team that is able to work through an educational paradigm, and punitive, if necessary, but through an educational paradigm hopefully to, in fact, really focus on those upstream events and really focus on promoting good behavior.
So our hope is going to be that with our public health ambassadors and with the way that we approach this generally that students wouldn't be discouraged from sharing those contacts, because they wouldn't be fearing the most serious response to that. And if you don't mind, while you asked me this question about compact, I neglected to mention something else that I wanted to before, and it was pertaining to Greek life. This is obviously a big topic when it comes to behavior and the compact. There will be a moratorium on all Greek events this fall. So no fraternities should be having parties by policy, and all the student leaders and the alumni leaders have agreed with that moratorium. That's obviously something the institution felt strongly about, but the leaders agreed with it as well.
So I do want to address, if we do learn of events that have happened, we'll handle those in two fashions. One is to hold the organization accountable, as we often do and are in the process of right now, but two, to also to hold individuals accountable, and we'll do that through social host approach. So whoever's house, whoever is registered to be the source of a house or the owners of a house, if it's an off-campus, an annex, for example, will be the individuals held accountable for facilitating any events that take place at that house.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Avery, could I just add one thing there?
AVERY: Yes, please.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: So just a comment and appeal to faculty that we all have a responsibility, I think, here to do two things. One is to model appropriate behavior, so to really make sure we live what we're saying students should be doing, and that we show full compliance in faculty and staff in this community that students are going to be entering. And then, second, to actually take some responsibility to also identify students who are not displaying appropriate behavior and, as Ryan says, use this as an instructed time to be able to correct that behavior.
Gary has arranged for graduate students in public health to go around and ask students who are not wearing masks why they're not wearing masks. So a way to try and get open this conversation. We will also have some assets, some video about how to approach this in an effective way. But I do want to emphasize to faculty that we're all in this together and we all bear a part of this responsibility.
GARY KORETZKY: And Avery, can I just make one more comment to follow on from both what Ryan and Mike said, and that is a lot of the conversation is about what we'll do in the fall, or I guess September is not really the fall yet, but when the semester starts. I really think it's very important that we begin to change the culture now. The campus is not very crowded now, but there's still people around.
And as Mike said, we have this mask project that we've begun, and mask wearing is not universal by any stretch of the imagination right now. And I think if we can change the culture when things are relatively quiet on campus, so as the campus builds up people move into a culture that we've established, we'll be much, much more successful than trying to establish that culture in the fall or after September begins. So my great request is that for folks that are on campus be modeling it now, not in September, even though it is quite sparse on campus, particularly inside, and start that culture change before we really get crowded.
AVERY: Great. Thanks, Gary. That was very helpful. So this question is for Mike. Given the changes that have happened nationally as the pandemic has spread west and south, why not reverse course and go online?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. It's a great question, and I get asked it repeatedly. And the real reason is the conditions that caused us to make this decision have not changed. If we go all online and we tell students we're not opening the campus for residents, or for classrooms, et cetera, we know we already see many, many students in college town and many more coming. And our ability to control community spread and test in that environment is much more limited. And so all the science tells us that the safest thing to do is to do this under controlled conditions rather than have uncontrolled conditions. And the modeling is such, and we Peter keeps updating this modeling with external prevalence, the increase in external prevalence, the change in local prevalence. But the reality is you would have to have far, far fewer students return to college town and our Ithaca community than are actually already here to be able to start to make these things look equivalent.
So while the optics, as I say, it's going to look like we're going to have more cases because we're actually testing and discovering them, but the science tells us this is the safest course of action. And a number of our peers have decided the same thing. Even though they are all online, they've invited a number of their students back so that they can, particularly those where most of the students live in the dorms, so that they can monitor that student population.
AVERY: Thanks, Mike.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: I want to just state--
AVERY: Sorry, Mike.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: While I've got the floor, and I know time is limited, this issue of the Ithaca School District has come up from faculty a few times, and I've seen the questions here. I will say that I have reached out to the leadership of the Ithaca School District and the local administrator that oversees all of our local township schools, and we're going to have a discussion about what's possible here and how we can help.
A number of people have been working just flat out to try and mount the testing capacity that we need for ourselves. And Gary worries about this every night-- Diego [INAUDIBLE] in the vet college are furiously mounting this new lab, standing it up, and of course our Cayuga Medical Partners. So I don't know that we have huge capacity here, but we're going to investigate what we can do, either in terms of advice, spare capacity, whatever we can do to help our partners, and that's a conversation we're committed to trying to achieve.
AVERY: Thanks, Mike. I know a number of members of the community have inquired about that. So I want to move this question to Gary. So Gary, this is related to the previous question about contact tracing. If a person in the class gets infected, how will you handle that? Will people in the classroom be informed, faculty who are teaching it, et cetera?
GARY KORETZKY: So Avery, I'm waiting for you to ask an easy question. So this is I think one that's on the mind of so many, and it's really complicated, and it's complicated because it really is on the border between privacy, between having somebody's personal medical information being known to them, and then only known to those who have to know. So what's the process?
The process, like I said, is that if somebody becomes positive, they are interviewed by Tompkins County Health as soon as possible. Cornell Health also becomes aware if there's a student that's positive, and the reason why is Cornell Health is responsible for the care of our students. And then contact tracing begins.
So one could imagine a scenario where a student was in a class wearing a mask sitting far apart from other students, and there was really no interaction that suggested that there was a close contact. Tompkins County Health and Cornell Health might decide that at that point, the student of course needs to be isolated. Others will know that the student is being isolated, but there wouldn't necessarily be information that was distributed to others in the class about the need to be tested, et cetera. That will be a decision that will be made based upon the rigor of the evaluation and the parameters that occurred in that event.
One can imagine another situation where masks for some reason weren't used, or there was a laboratory where people were working close together. That would be a completely different scenario. So there isn't a hard and fast rule about what will happen. It will be very individualized. It will always be a judgment call that we will ask the professionals at Tompkins County Health and those at Cornell Health to make, where they will do whatever they can to preserve the privacy of individuals, but also safeguard the public health.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: And if I could just add to that a little bit. It may be a bit of cold comfort, but underlying what Gary is saying is the fact that if the evidence is that if individuals are wearing masks and they are socially distanced, the likelihood of transmission goes way, way, way down. So that's the key thing that I think we need to remember. And that's one of the things that Lisa is working flat out on is making sure that we have the classrooms where we can maintain this social distancing. And of course, it will be required that all students in the classrooms have masks at all times.
AVERY: Thanks, Mike. I just wanted to follow up on your statement about the Ithaca of School District. The question came in regarding the college students and whether Cornell would be able to work with them.
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. We've had a number of conversations with Ithaca College. They are pursuing their own plans, which are somewhat separate. You may know that they have told all students that are from the quarantine states not to come and to be online. They are pursuing testing with Cayuga Medical in a way that we're also collaborating with Cayuga Medical. They have not reached out in terms of requesting additional testing capacity. And I should say, we are in very good shape in terms of capacity.
But of course, they have a challenge that's a little different than ours. They have fewer students from I think restricted states outside, a more local population, however, also a significant fraction, as we do, with students living off campus. And so we are trying to coordinate. We've coordinated our opening, for example, so that they will open after we do. They will have access to hotels after we've released those hotels. And we're trying to make these plans work for the community as much as possible.
AVERY: Thanks, Mike. So I want to move to Lisa with a question about classrooms. So for those faculty who will be teaching in the classrooms, how will the classrooms be cleaned between the classes?
LISA NISHII: So the classrooms will be equipped with cleaning supplies-- spray bottles and cloths, or paper towels-- and students will be asked to clean their seat and their desk before and/or after they sit in it. And so a good way to think about this, if you're teaching in-person, is to use the last few minutes of class to signal to students to start cleaning their space perhaps while they think about any questions that they might have from the day's content. In addition to that, building care teams will be cleaning classrooms twice a day.
AVERY: Great, thanks. Gary, do you have anything to add to that from the health perspective?
GARY KORETZKY: Sure. There's been much, much discussion about this, Avery, as you know. And this has got to be a shared responsibility. I think everything that we're talking about is really a shared responsibility. It's wearing masks, it's the compliance with testing, and it's also being really careful about your space and cleaning. So we're going to ask students to help, but also the facilities are going to go the extra mile. There's going to be deep cleaning every night, and then there's going to be cleaning intermittently during the day, as Lisa mentioned.
And we have asked them to use their literature and best practices with the sorts of materials to use and the type of cleaning. And like I said, this is an effort by everybody on the campus really to do whatever they can to do their part to ensure the safety. So I'm actually quite comfortable with the plans that have come through with Rick Burgess and facilities working with Lisa. And so I think the real important things in the classrooms, as Mike said, is distancing and masks to keep people apart, and then also to do cleaning on your own and then professionally with our staff.
AVERY: Great. Thanks, Lisa and Gary. The next question is for Ryan. We're bringing students back. They're going to be here. We want to encourage them to be responsible. So when will the rules of engagement be posted for social events so that they can plan those events and be socially and physically distanced and be able to wear masks, et cetera, to be safe?
RYAN LOMBARDI: Sure. Thanks, Avery. So our students are eager to see their friends and see others, but we think it's important that we start the semester slowly in this regard. As we come in and as students go through their arrival test and get into the surveillance program, we think the prudent move is to ease into this. And so for that reason, and also for the reason of needing to really withhold space as much as possible to allow Lisa and all the faculty to settle into the classroom routines and testing sites and these types of things, we're actually not making space available for students to reserve for the month of September.
So we will be advising them through our Campus Activities office about how to conduct meetings and hold events virtually, but also to use other spaces-- outdoor spaces and things along these lines in a responsible manner. A number of our early activities for students are going to be held virtual this fall. Those includes things like the career fairs, which are mostly in September. A lot of the orientation programming is going to be virtual. And again, we just think it's really prudent as students enter and spend those first couple of weeks here to stay virtual as much as possible with some of these activities. But they will be getting additional guidance from the Campus Activities office about this.
AVERY: Great. Thanks, Ryan. I know we're running out of time. We have about five or six minutes left, and there's a lot of questions. So we clearly won't be able to get all of them. So I want to pose this next question to Lisa. For those courses that are hybrid, where the students are split into cohorts, in-person versus virtual, how will that be managed through the enrollment process, if so?
LISA NISHII: So I put an answer in the chat to this as well in the Q&A, but the question was will faculty handle this, or will it be handled automatically through enrollment. And the answer to that is that faculty will handle this. So what we ask is that you go to Faculty Center, download your student list, and then assign them to the different cohorts. But because enrollment is going to be happening very close to the beginning of classes this semester unfortunately, we really urge that you check, recheck the student list, as it can change all the way up to the start of classes, and of course a little bit after that for the add/drop period. I would recommend posting something in their announcement section of your Canvas board telling students to look out for an email telling them about their assignment to a particular rotation group.
AVERY: Thanks, Lisa. So trying to get as many questions in here as possible. Someone posed this to Gary and Mike. Is there a plan for increasing hospital capacity in the event that we need to have this increase in capacity?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Ho ahead, Gary.
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah, sure. So we talked with Marty Stallone, who is the CEO of Cayuga Medical Center, regularly. As a matter of fact, my meeting just before this town hall was with Marty. And Cayuga Medical Center has a surge plan as required of every hospital system in New York. So right now they have a small ICU, but they have the capability to grow that considerably. They have a plan where they can increase beds. They can increase ICU beds, and they can increase ventilator beds. And they also have agreements with other hospital systems in the region, and actually throughout the state. They actually donated respirators to New York City as well as staff to New York City when it was needed there, and there was an agreement, if it's needed, in reverse that they have that back.
So as I mentioned earlier, Marty is very aware of what our plan is, is very supportive of that plan, is a partner throughout. And when it comes to medical care for Cornell, but also the larger community, he remains-- I'm speaking for him-- very confident that we can meet what the needs might be.
AVERY: Thanks for that question, Gary. Mike, do you want to add anything to that?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: No. I think the answer is yes. I mean, they've got a significant surge capacity that they've put in place and thought very carefully about.
AVERY: Great, thanks. So I see we have two more minutes roughly in this, and trying to get a quick question in here. So for students or faculty who have in-person classes, will there be seat assignments? This is a question for Lisa perhaps. Will there be seat assignments such that you can maintain the physical distancing?
LISA NISHII: Yes, that is the plan. So each classroom will have an actual layout with the seats and marked where students should sit in the classroom in order to ensure six-foot distancing. And so we recommend that faculty assign specific students to the seats and use that, and students should always sit in the same seat and to take a dent in attendance, because that can also help for contact tracing purposes. We will share more guidelines before the start of the semester, recommendations for ways to make that easier.
AVERY: Thanks. I'm going to try to squeeze in one last question here for Mike. So if the university has to close, will the university continue to monitor students so that they don't pose a danger to the community?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: Yeah. I mean, so that is a tough one. One of the things we've wrestled with a little bit is our ability to continue to monitor students and make sure they're tested is through this daily access to campus. If we close the campus, they don't have access. That goes away. I have no doubt that we would try and mount a voluntary surveillance process to make sure, particularly in light of if we've closed, it means we've had significant infection and we haven't been able to control that spread. And then it's all hands on deck for everybody-- Tompkins County Health, Cornell, Cayuga Medical, I'm sure Ithaca College, the entire community, and we will deploy all the resources we have to try and address that.
AVERY: Thank you. And I think we are just out of time. I would like to thank all of you for coming, almost 500 showing up in the room today. Thank all the panelists for a great and nuanced answers and all of you for your questions. Unfortunately, we're not able to get to all of them, and hopefully we're able to address some of them in the coming time. Mike, did you want to add any closing remarks?
MICHAEL KOTLIKOFF: No. Thanks to all the panelists. I would just say, faculty, it's probably apparent to you the amount of work that's going on behind the scenes here. It's not always clear, but every one of the panelists and many other individuals are sort of, as I say, flat out trying to make sure we're prepared for student re-entry. And so whatever encouragement you can provide for your colleagues I think would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, all.
AVERY: Thank you.
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Note: The information shared in this video is accurate as of August 6, 2020 but continues to develop. Please visit covid.cornell.edu for current updates and for links to the most recent recordings.
On August 6, Avery August, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, moderated a continued discussion about the reactivation of the Ithaca campus for fall 2020, Panelists: Mike Kotlikoff, Provost; Gary Koretzky, Vice Provost for Academic Integration; Ryan Lombardi, Vice President for Student and Campus Life; and Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.