SPEAKER 1: Great. I see we have over 600 participants. And I want to thank everybody for joining us this afternoon. Let's start off and discuss Cornell's reopening plans with President Pollack, who's going to give a short presentation that talks about how we came to this decision. Martha.
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you, Mike. And thank everyone for joining us on this very hot July day. I know that most of you have read a lot of what we've put out already, but we still thought it'd be worthwhile to take just a few minutes and talk to what got us to this point. There was, I think as everybody knows, a lot of planning that went on between really April, May, and into June. Many, many people deserve their thanks for participating from the planning committees that involved faculty, staff, and students, and I think as everyone knows research reactivation is underway. There are people back in our labs and in our offices as appropriate doing research.
On the other committees, we've had a lot of public health analyses. Thank you to Peter Frazier-- Professor Frazier is on the call with us-- and his team who did epidemiological modeling. We've been very heavily engaged with the local medical community and with the state government. We had members of the administrative and cost control committee providing guidance as we did but budgeting. And of course, many of you participated in townhalls, in surveys. We went to the EA, the faculty, senate, and so on. So we want to thank everyone who has participated in this.
If you look out across the country-- I downloaded this late last week, so it's maybe a few days out of date. But this is what the Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting for the more than 1,000 colleges and universities that they are tracking. And what you can see is that more than 80%-- so more than 3/4 of the universities are planning either for some sort of a hybrid model, the kind we're planning for, or for in-person teaching.
I have to say, I have no idea what this 1.8% link is. I tried looking through the article, and I just couldn't figure it out. But most universities, most colleges are, to some extent, reopening. I should say of our Ivy peers, so far Dartmouth, Penn, and Yale have all announced their plans. They are all reopening. Dartmouth with not all their students back-- Dartmouth has this funny Dartmouth plan where they never have all their students back at once. They'll have something more than half their students back.
Yale is inviting back three of the four classes at a time. Penn, which is the only other Ivy that, like us, has a lot of students living off campus, is inviting back all of their students. We haven't yet heard from the other four universities. We made the decision, and enormous credit goes to Mike, the provost, for pushing us in this direction. We made the decision to really go with science and to take a data-driven, scientific approach to our decision to open.
The study, which was conducted by Peter Frazier and his colleagues, is very detailed. You can read it online. There are many, many, many charts there, many models you can look at. I want to compliment them. Every time I pushed back and said, well, what about this, they went out and did the model. They did a lot of sensitivity analysis.
Now, look, there are always limits to every single epidemiological model. You may have missed something. You might have done everything right, and you can still just have a bad outcome. But I think when you go with the science, the science drives us to say that the safest decision is to reopen, not to online. So this, to me, is the key chart in the entire report.
What you're looking at the top are so-called nominal parameters-- sort of best guesses about things like prevalence in the community or testing rates and so on. The bottom are more optimistic parameters. The bottom left, the bottom right are more pessimistic parameters. And interestingly, what I'm showing is hospitalization counts. Although if you look at infection counts, you see the same pattern. The orange is under the assumptions that we reopen, and the blue is under the assumptions that we don't reopen.
And what you're looking at is basically a lot of probability distribution. So you see that the probabilities for hospitalization in the case in which we open is somewhere between the x-axis is number of people hospitalized. I'm eyeballing it, but eight and 18 people, with a peak probability at roughly 10 or 11. And you see that in the non-reopening case, it goes from about 65 to 68 or something like that. I'm sorry, this is below 20, and this is 60 to 70. And the peak here is at about 65.
So in any of these three cases, what you're seeing is the probability is significantly lower-- several times lower-- for reopening than for not reopening. And that's a little bit counter-intuitive. In fact, that's a lot counter-intuitive. But the reason, as the team began to dive into this data, one of the things that they took into account were the number of students who said they would come back to Ithaca even if we were only online. We gathered that data from a survey. We gathered that data from talking to local landlords. In the survey, about 50% of our undergraduates said they're either very or somewhat likely to come back.
The team did do sensitivity training, and even if that is a significant over-estimate of how many students come back, you get the same kind of results. So why is that? Why do you get fewer hospitalizations than in the reopening case than the non-reopening case? Well, it's because the core of the program that we're planning to put in place-- the core of it is a very aggressive virus testing program-- one that I would say actually leads the country.
We are planning to, wherever possible, have students do testing before they return, and then when they return they will be tested again. We will have fast turnaround testing, and they will be quarantined in local hotels until we get it back. Students will then be tested probably once a week. Faculty and staff testing will be strongly encouraged and may even be required, depending on conditions. That will probably be less frequent. There will be supportive quarantine and isolation.
So it's really the classic public health triad of test, trace, and isolate or quarantine to contain the infection. We are doing this work in close collaboration with [INAUDIBLE] Medical Center, and we are incredibly fortunate to have PCR testing capabilities at the College of Veterinary Medicine. That's really what makes this all possible.
We're also planning to use pooled testing. In pooled testing, what you do is you collect samples from five or from 10 people, you put them together, you do one test. If the test is negative, then you clear all those people. If it's positive, you go back and you individually test all the people whose samples were pulled together. There is very recent CDC guidance on doing this. Also, as you can imagine, this drives down costs substantially.
So the key difference, then, between not reopening and opening is the fact that if we are open, if we have students who are here on campus taking classes, we have much more capability to compel regular testing, along with all these other associated health measures-- tracing, isolation, quarantine, and all of the mask-wearing and social distancing and so on than we would if students have just come back to Ithaca and happen to be living here while they're taking online classes as opposed to living in Dallas or Atlanta or New York City or wherever.
It's that difference-- our ability to compel this testing and mandate it that really makes the difference and really drives us to say that the risks are lower if we open than we don't open. And I want to say one more thing-- the risks are lower. I would love nothing more than to be able to say there's no risk. No one can say that. That's not the point of this argument.
So the key recommendations that came up into us were that we should reopen for instruction. That means we should invite back all of our students with options for those who can't return-- ability to do some of their classes online. I think as everyone knows by now, we are planning to modify the calendar-- start a week later. That'll give us more time to do all the preparation that we need to have as safe a semester as we can, and a longer moving period.
We'll then send the students home at Thanksgiving so that they're not going and coming back again, and so that they're here for a reduced amount of time during flu season. They'll complete the last-- I think it's about a week and a half of classes online and take their exams at home. And they'll start spring one week later. Teaching will be hybrid, as the provost has already announced. Faculty will be able to decide what works best for their class, in most cases.
Really large classes, for example, will have to be online. We simply don't have spaces that are big enough to have physical distancing in the classroom for the really large classes. And in-person courses will have some kind of remote access-- it may just be a camera in the back of the room-- so that students who are in quarantine or isolation, or our international students who, it's very, very sad, probably won't be able to get back, will still have access.
We got many, many, many additional recommendations. I'm not going to sit here and read you this list. We will be, over the summer, fleshing out a lot of these. They involve everything from how we modify physical facilities to what kinds of policies we have around visitors coming in and travel off campus. Travel is going to be very, very strongly discouraged.
Thanks to John Siliciano and his team, we also got a really excellent set of best practices for online teaching. If we're going to do a hybrid teaching, we have to have very high quality online teaching. And their report, which, again, I won't read you this whole list-- you should take a look at it-- it involved, in response to many of the questions that have come up, everything from academic integrity in the online environment, how we assure accessibility for students with vision and hearing disabilities, and more.
So let me just conclude by talking about what I see as the key risks. The key risks up front between now and August really fall-- I've listed two, but I want to say they really fall into three buckets. The first is implementation. We have an enormous amount of work to do between now and August, but we have an enormously committed and talented team working on this, and in particular, working on making sure that we have the infrastructure to do the virus testing that is at the heart of all of this.
A second risk is that we just have unreasonable expectations about the extent to which we can modify student behavior. Students are students. Students are 19 to 21-year-olds. We have lots of ideas about how to create a culture of greater shared responsibility. But we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about there'll be no parties.
The key point to remember is that the logic of the whole decision applies here as well. If students are coming back, they're going to have parties, which we will try to control-- but they're going to have parties whether we're open or not. And we can mitigate the risk that comes from that by doing more testing in the more effective way that we have if they're here.
The third key risk between now and then, which I haven't listed, but it's the very rapidly changing situation on the ground across this country. And we are just monitoring that very, very carefully. That is out of our control. But we will continue to monitor that. Once the fall comes, the biggest risk is the emergence of a more serious outbreak than we anticipate-- one that could stress the local health care system. And that, of course, is what nobody wants.
We will have a lot of data, and we're going to do very careful monitoring of health conditions. And we will react and readjust and react and readjust quickly if we need to do that. But again, I can't stress this enough-- I can't sit here and tell you there will be no risk. Whether we open, whether we don't open, there very likely will be infections, there very likely will be serious illnesses, including hospitalization. We're going to do our very best to minimize the risk. We're going to do our very best to provide as much PPE, to enforce policies, to try and have this community of mutual responsibility. But in the midst of this pandemic, there simply is no zero risk anywhere. So that's where we are, and I think I will stop sharing my screen and turn things back over to Mike.
SPEAKER 1: Thanks, Martha. So just a couple of brief comments. As Martha mentioned, this is a very ambitious plan. And we're now really in implementation mode. We have lots to do and a very short time to do it. What we're setting up now is what I call a nested barrier system of protections, as Martha mentioned.
First of all, we have testing, and we're working on-- Gary Koretzky is leading a team working on expanding our testing capacity, working on supply, and getting the supplies for a sampling, working with our partners at CU Medical on all the aspects of standing up the surveillance testing program. We're also putting together a warning signs dashboard. As Martha said, we're going to monitor this situation very carefully.
A lot of faculty have asked, well, what happens if your predictions and all your modeling is wrong and we find ourselves in a worse situation. Well, we will be monitoring things like infectivity, the emergence of symptoms, certainly hospitalizations. All of these things, we'll be looking at on a daily basis. We'll have an attestation on a daily basis of symptoms of individuals. And we'll be able to make modifications in terms of scaling back, if we see infections rising at an alarming rate.
We're setting up, as I said, a daily symptom checking system, a contact tracing system. We're acquiring the quarantine space that we need. We're putting in place a move-in process. One of the issues that we see is that Tompkins County has a very low prevalence rate right now. We've seen that from our own testing and from what's been reported by the county.
But nationally, in many areas, the prevalence is much higher. We will be bringing individuals back from those areas, and almost certainly introducing individuals at the start of our campus that are infected. And our planning is really to have gateway testing, as Martha mentioned, to be able to identify those individuals, prevent them from having contacts, and isolate them as quickly as possible. And much of what we're seeing now nationally is a shift from testing for cause-- testing only symptomatic individuals-- to surveillance testing-- testing individuals that are not symptomatic, but can spread the disease.
We'll have, as I say, a move-in process that we carefully monitor. Individuals are working on that, working up a behavioral compact for our students, classroom technology, modifying the course roster, making it clear to students what courses are online, what courses are in person. We'll put in place academic policies. We're getting PPE supply chains so we can have that ready for everyone, ordering space in our classrooms.
And then, importantly, we'll have a public health behavior campaign that we'll launch for our students and our faculty and staff at the same time. So there are many other things that are going on, but I do want to make sure that faculty understand that we do have teams of committed individuals that are working very hard. We have a short period of time. And now, finally, we've made this decision, now we're in implementation mode.
So with introductory comments, I just introduced our other panelists. Gary Koretzky, whom I mentioned is vice provost for academic integration. Gary is overseeing the health testing part of the effort. Lisa Nishii is vice provost for undergraduate education. She's working very diligently on the course roster and other things. John Siliciano deputy provost, is with us. John has been working on our online courses and how we continue to foster and support faculty in creating online material. And then finally Peter Frazier, an associate professor in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering. And Peter and his group, with others, have been working over the last two months to do the modeling and think carefully about the epidemiology of what's going on. So with that, I send it back to Wendy, who will ask the questions.
SPEAKER 2: Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Martha. And welcome, everybody. I will say that we got many questions in advance. We got 45 questions in advance, and we're getting a lot of questions in the Q&A box, you all should know that you can submit questions in the Q&A box, and there are many too many to fully address here. But the panelists will do as good a job as they can, and we'll try to follow up. Martha's slides will be available. That was a question. And this recording also will be available on the COVID website.
So to start with a question for Martha that you've already addressed, but I wonder if you can elaborate a little bit. There are so many questions about how it is that we will be able to enforce positive student behavior in the dorms, in college towns, et cetera. We're hearing about neighbors around campus who are quite worried about the students partying. So can you talk a little bit more about this campaign and what we'll do if students violate the contract?
MARTHA POLLACK: Of course, of course. We are going to have an extensive public health campaign. We are going to engage our students, and especially our students and leaders in trying to develop a culture of mutual responsibility, in trying to put in place bystander intervention policies. But we know-- we're not naive-- we know that students are going to be students. Sometimes students will make mistakes. Sometimes they'll forget to put on a mask, and we'll challenge them and ask to put it on.
But when there are repeated or egregious violations of health and safety standards, we're working with Ryan Lombardi and his team on a series of escalating sanctions which could involve the parent or legal guardian. They're going to have to sign on for this along with their students. And it could involve temporary or permanent removal from residence halls, classes, other campus facilities, all the way up to and including a formal process that could result in having the student suspended for the semester.
Now, our goal is always going to be to encourage and to try and get co-operative compliance with health and safety requirements. But we will be prepared to act if students are behaving in ways that pose risk to others. Again, what I want to know is that the key for public health is this triad of test, trace, and isolate. So that even if we have a failure, we very quickly pick up who's been infected, and we quickly get them into quarantine or isolation, along with the contacts they've had.
SPEAKER 2: Thanks, Martha. I know that will keep coming up, and we'll be addressing it in various ways. So a question for Mike-- the model that Peter Frazier is going to talk about a bit more in a minute rests on this information that most students will come back, even if classes are held online. So people are wondering how confident you are in that information, and why we can't test students who are in college towns, even if they're not on campus.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah, this is a key point here. We did poll undergrads, and as Martha said, slightly over 50% of what will now be our sophomores, juniors, and seniors said that they plan to return. However, we did not just rely on their intentions. Martha, as she said, pushed on this point quite a bit, and we remodeled the situation if many fewer students return.
Turns out that the situation only starts to be equivalent when about only 5,000 students return. 5,000 is a little more than half of our graduate students. We know that more students than that will be here. And as Martha said, we've also talked to landlords. And what we're hearing is people plan to occupy their residences. This is really important, because all of the behavioral issues that we're all concerned about apply to the situation where students are in college town, the campus is not open for residential instruction, and we have limited control over what they're doing.
Now, I've heard many times people say, well, why can't you make students who were in college town and not here for residential instruction, why can't you test them? And we can offer testing for individuals on a voluntary basis. But if students are not here as part of a residential campus and they're private citizens on their own, our ability to put in place this entire nested barrier protection system is quite limited. So our ability to compel individuals to get tested or we will see if they're not tested, and then there are consequences for not being tested on a weekly basis.
Our ability to impose a behavioral compact or contract on students is quite limited if, again, they're here informally taking online courses. They could be anywhere. And all of these other issues-- our ability to control their access and how they are on our campus and policing that effort of wearing masks and social distancing all becomes greatly diminished. So that is really the key, I think, finding of the modeling, and emphasizes, as Martha said, the importance of surveillance testing to identify these individuals early on, then keep them low during the course of the semester.
SPEAKER 2: Thanks. Now moving over to Peter. As you point out in your paper, these models that you've run, they're very imperfect simulations of reality. And people need to remember that. But what are the things that we need to be thinking about that the model depends on or that the model can't see? And a second question to add onto that-- what happens if the caseload around the country is significantly higher than it is now? Does that impact the final numbers?
PETER FRAZIER: Thank you. Yeah, let me take those in reverse order. So we've been seeing cases rise across the country. The impact of that will be seen primarily in the gateway testing program. But our plan is to set up a robust testing program that tests students where at all possible before they come to Ithaca, so that if they turn out to be positive, they can be quarantined at home to save quarantine capacity here in Ithaca, and then also tested again once they arrive in order to help mitigate the effect of false negatives and also to help mitigate the effect of infections that may have occurred during transit.
So the effect of rising prevalence elsewhere is that so, number one, you would expect, then, to see a larger number of people quarantine at home before they leave. Number two, although we should be able to identify a significant fraction of them before they leave, we'll then have a larger number of people who would be identified in the gateway testing once they arrive in Ithaca, which will have an impact in terms of health consequences, and then also in terms of quarantine capacity. So we need to make sure to be able to plan for that.
The fraction of people that are positive and that are missed in this gateway testing, if we're able to execute the way that we plan, will be quite low. So an increase in prevalence across the country should be able to be handled by that gateway testing program. In terms of other aspects of the modeling-- yes, as you say, a model is never perfect. There are always many, many things that you can't include or that you aren't sure about, especially with a disease that's as new as this for which there are a number of just basic epidemiological parameters that we don't know.
We're continuing to do work to investigate sensitivity to a variety of these parameters, and then also to include more detail into the model. So some things that we're working on now-- I just responded to a comment on the chat about interactions with Tompkins County. So that's an important thing. Something that we were doing in the modeling was just taking the prevalence in Tompkins County to be given, and then seeing what happens in the Cornell population. But what we would really like to do is to model the interactions between Cornell and Tompkins County. So we're doing that. That's very important.
Another thing that we're doing is understanding our ability to respond to greater transmission than we had included in the first version of our modeling report. We got a number of comments asking about contacts per day, which is really a question about transmission rates. We're about to publish an addendum that assesses how large this can grow and have us still be able to control it with our asymptomatic screening.
Also Martha talked about testing certain parts of the population less frequently than others, which is a good idea. You want to test people that have lots of contacts and have lots of contacts with vulnerable members of the population more frequently. Whereas in the main modeling, we just use homogeneous test frequency. So we're looking at more targeted testing and also looking at adaptive testing where you observe what prevalence is and what transmission rates are based on the testing that you do in the first couple of weeks, and then you adjust, which is an important way to mitigate uncertainty that we have. Yeah, I could go on and on forever, but those are some of the things that we're working on this week.
MARTHA POLLACK: Can I jump in for one second, because there is something very important that Peter said, which is that we're not done with this modeling, and we're not done with this scientific, data-driven approach. As we make more decisions, refine these decisions, and maybe even change them over time, we're doing it on the basis of continued work that looks at as we learn more about the disease, as we learn more about the transmission, as we learn more about our community, what's the right way to behave. So it's not as if, OK, the modeling is done, and now full steam ahead.
SPEAKER 2: Martha, can I ask you another question, which is a little bit about the student contract, but also about the testing. Will there be some sort of requirement that students demonstrate evidence that they have tested and tested negative?
MARTHA POLLACK: Yes, although I'm going to turn to-- the answer is, yes, but I don't exactly know-- Gary or Mike, can you talk about the mechanisms for how that's going to work?
SPEAKER 1: Go ahead Gary.
GARY KORETZKY: Yes. So I'm sorry, Wendy, the question was testing remotely.
MARTHA POLLACK: No, how did students demonstrate that they tested and got a negative result.
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. So we are working on this right now with having information being transmitted to us that Ryan has written to all of the students about expectations. There'll be follow-up notes from all of the professional schools, from the graduate school, and from Ryan about how we want to get information back and forth.
As you know, I think, from seeing that email, that we've requested that students seek, if available, testing locally. And then once they get the result, they can send that back to us. We don't have exactly the mechanism for that. But regardless, they will be tested when they return. So this is really for helping them to recognize whether or not they're positive before they return.
MARTHA POLLACK: Gary, I think the question is once they get tested each week.
GARY KORETZKY: Oh sure. Oh.
MARTHA POLLACK: When they get tested each week, how do they demonstrate that they've done that?
GARY KORETZKY: Oh, yes, so all of the data are being collected by us-- that we are managing the testing together with Cayuga Medical Center. And the students will know whether they're positive or negative. We will know through Tompkins County health-- through the procedure with Tompkins County health-- about positives, that there are privacy considerations that are taken into account. But Cornell Health will know of positive students. Cornell will know a positive staff and employees in their units.
But this information, of course, is personal medical information and will be held only through the leadership in the colleges and through Cornell Health. But all of the positives are known by Tompkins County. Did I miss--
SPEAKER 1: It might be valuable to explain the process. So the surveillance process will be pulled testing, as Martha described, that is done by Cornell. And the individuals that are in positive pools, that information will be sent to Cayuga Medical for a diagnostic test for those individuals. Everybody else will be cleared until the next week when they're tested the following week.
So we will have all the negative information. Cayuga Medical will have the positives and confirm the individuals through diagnostic testing, and then that information goes-- separate goes to the Tompkins County Health Department, and Cornell Health is only notified through Tompkins County Health.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thanks. So we have some more questions for testing. Let me get back to Gary. And, Peter, if we have time, we might have time for some more questions on modeling. But there are so many questions for Lisa on the fall calendar that I want to make sure we move to that. Lisa, I'll list these questions, even though you might not have answers to all of them yet. So the first and most common one is, will there be a fall break, or any break in instruction the whole semester? And when are the first and last days of instruction?
So the semester ends, but when do we actually stop teaching? And when will we know the calendar? When will rooms and course times be assigned? And can you talk a little bit more about the semifinals period and whether that's still happening?
LISA NISHII: Yes, OK. So classes will start September 2, that is a Wednesday, and end on December 21. Actually, I should say, that's the end of the term-- December 21, which is a Tuesday. Embedded within the start and end dates are exams that will happen in various forms. So the semifinals we are still planning on doing those. Are in-person and will happen before Thanksgiving break.
And just as is the case in a traditional year during finals at the end of the semester, during those semifinal days and right now we have eight that have been set aside-- eight days-- students would not be attending class. It's really like a finals period. If they don't have a semifinal in their course, they can have other assignments that are due.
To the question about break, that's right-- there will not be a fall break this year. This is consistent with what universities across the nation are doing. And the main reason is because we really need to inhibit non-essential travel, which poses such a risk to our community. We are aware of the stressors that students face and are talking about a number of ways we might be able to address them. The two main contenders-- we have not yet finalized this-- one option would be to have, let's say, two weekday days off where students don't have classes. That does impact some types of courses more than others, like labs in particular. It's quite a loss to lose a whole lab day.
The other alternative would be, perhaps, to set aside an entire week where there are no assignments due, but students still attend class. The concern there is that assignments will get compressed before and after that week, so we're collecting input and trying to make a decision about that. With regard to the question about when we will know-- we'll know when classes will be taught online versus in person.
SPEAKER 2: When will we know the calendar, and when will the rooms and course times--
LISA NISHII: So that is the calendar. The final details about the calendar, as soon as we work through them, we will share them through the university website or through another forum like this. In terms of the assignments to specific times and classrooms, that is quite a beast of a project that we have started working on.
Starting last week, we've been in touch with department chairs and program directors, and we'll be in constant touch with them for the next, I'm going to say, six weeks or so. And there are many steps involved in that. And so it begins with understanding the modified capacities of the classrooms that we have. We have to do this manually, because, depending on the room, the actual occupancy-- the percentage of the regular occupancy that we're able to get differs quite a bit, from 10% to 24% or so. So that's a manual process on thousands of rooms.
There's that. Of course, department chairs are also starting to have conversations with faculty and TAs about teaching preferences. And so they have to figure that piece of it out. We need to also find out from you whether or not you would like to schedule an in-person semifinal exam versus an online final exam at the end of the semester. And that will give us the data we need to figure out whether or not eight days that we scheduled, if that's the right number, and we can make adjustments based on the data that we collect about that.
And then we will publish the meeting times for this semester-- that is what time classes can meet. And based on that, departments will start to schedule their courses. We have to identify the courses that would conflict and that cannot conflict, and really have a transparent process that can be viewed across departments-- hugely, I think, collaborative process here, with opportunities for college leadership also to be able to take a look at the course roster that's shaping up for the college.
And then we're going to have to make modifications based on the final sets of classroom capacity data that we receive. Hopefully we won't need to make alterations greater than plus or minus-5%. And then final review, and we'll schedule online courses last, because they don't require classroom space.
So this is all to say it's going to take a little while before we can say for sure exactly what time courses will be meeting and in what rooms. Yeah, that's a maybe five weeks or so is my best guess right now. Were there any other questions for me?
SPEAKER 2: Well, there are so many other questions. But no no, that was great. And I should say that you are preparing FAQs. There are so many of these questions-- things like semifinals and the exact dates of the calendar will be available on those FAQs. So another set of questions for you, Lisa, are about decisions around whether to hold your class online or in person. So the first question is, how and when can faculty request that their class be held only online? What size class has to be online? And within the options, particularly the in-person or the hybrid options, how much flexibility do faculty have?
Can they change halfway through the semester, if they need to? Can they decide to bring students in groups-- so 50% of the students one week, 50% the next week. What sort of flexibility will faculty have?
LISA NISHII: OK, so faculty-- we collected data from faculty about their preferences in May or so for one of the reactivation citro planning committee. And we did indicate that preferences were non-binding. But we learned quite a bit about what faculty thought they might want to do. And it's a useful starting point for departments to take a look at. And if the department chairs and program directors haven't already started having these conversations, I think they will happen really soon. And so it will likely be an iterative process in some instances, in that departments and colleges will have kind of a goal for the collective roster-- that is the overall mix that the college is able to offer in order to give students a good experience with hopefully some in-person classes at different levels and for different disciplines. So that will start to happen soon.
Can faculty switch midway? OK, so that would be quite difficult. If you imagine beginning online-- if the question is, can I begin online and then decide to go in person. And because our classroom capacity is so constrained, that would require, one, that we have a surplus of classrooms. At the moment, I don't think that's going to be the case. Of course, maybe we'll be surprised about that. But there's another reason why we don't recommend that, which is when students enroll in their course, they would be enrolling assuming it's an online course.
And so that's what they think they are signing up for, what they're agreeing to. And to switch the modality midway is not something that we recommend. Of course, there's a big caveat there, which is that if early warning signs indicate that we should move all classes online for a certain period, then that would happen. But that wouldn't be an instructor-level choice. That would be a decision we're making more at the university level. I think that was all of them.
SPEAKER 2: That was all of them. Let me ask you one more. OK, I'm not sure if you answered what size class has to be online.
LISA NISHII: I didn't. So 50 is really our cap. So if an instructor is in there, we're talking about 49 students-- that's the cap that we're working with. So if classes that historically have an enrollment greater than 50, they would either need to cap their enrollment at 50 and make sure that's OK-- that that's not going to really stifle the progression of students through a major, for example-- or if their enrollment is greater than 50, if they can split the course into separate classes, essentially, that are all smaller than 50, that would be another option.
And then the third is one that I think you referenced, which is kind of this hybrid approach that we've been talking about, which is you have a subgroup A and subgroup B of the class, and A is in person on Mondays, and B is in person on Wednesdays, but otherwise, joining remotely. And that is a good strategy for departments to consider, and there are a lot of lab courses that are also considering this option, actually, where you can imagine setting up tripods and iPhone or other camera to be able to record what's happening, what the in-person student is working on in the lab. And then students who are joining remotely can see, rather than crowd around the lab station and watch the experiment, they can see what's happening and then engage in joint problem solving, and then switch who's in-person versus remote.
SPEAKER 2: OK. That's great. That's helpful. Just a small add-on-- is it possible for somebody to start in person but switch to remote if they become ill?
LISA NISHII: Well, so all faculty should have backup plans in place for if they become ill. And that could take a number of different forms. I think it depends, of course, on the course, on the class whether or not you might be able to have a backup instructor or you could have projects that are ready to go that can be plugged in at different points in the semester. Or if you feel well enough to still engage with students but do it remotely, then that would be an option as well.
And just because a faculty member is joining remotely doesn't necessarily mean all students would also do the same. They could join from the class and still be together in that classroom while the instructor is joining remotely.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thanks. So now moving to John-- two questions about faculty and teaching responsibilities. The first question is, what if faculty or staff members can't tolerate the risk of being in person on campus, but also can't meet all of their responsibilities while remote? The second question is, can a faculty member who is teaching entirely online be located anywhere in the country, or, I guess, anywhere in the world?
JOHN SILICIANO: So thanks, Wendy. So just as background, you see that we're doing a tremendous amount at the center to support teaching. But as reminder, teaching is also something that faculty should work very carefully with their department chairs. Curriculum happen at the department level, and the chair faculty interaction is quite essential there.
In terms of the question about faculty being able to teach but not carry all their responsibilities-- again, the first step is to try to work this out with your chair. As you may have noticed in the Thursday message about budget, there was a discussion there-- a mention in there-- about the possibility for short term adjustments in appointment effort. And that's something that, if there's a mutual agreement between the college and department and the faculty member to adjust the mix of responsibilities during this time where faculty have an unprecedented level of challenges we all know about of a children's school teaching. That's a possibility to work through that question in terms of that.
So again, working with your chair is critical. The chairs are working with the deans. We're working with the chairs and deans. So there's lots of ways that we're trying to support this enormous effort that really is on the shoulders of the faculty at the front lines. In terms of where you teach, if you're teaching fully online-- the main issue there is to make sure that you have the ability to support robust online education from whatever location you're teaching. If you're in Ithaca, you'll have access to the full support of CIT. We're also setting up specialized studios on campus for those who are going to be teaching online but need a better place to do so than from their home or apartment. So what's critical, as always, is that we offer the best teaching as possible. If you are not in a situation where you can access the resources in Ithaca, it would be incumbent on faculty to make sure that they have the right connections, the ability to do it effectively.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thanks, John. I'm going to move now to Gary for a set of questions on quarantine and testing, a set of questions around health. So three on testing specifically-- will everyone have to be tested, including all levels of student and faculty, even those who are teaching remotely? Second question, people are noticing, of course, that students are starting to come back. There are students around campus. Are we going to start testing soon? And is asymptomatic testing easily available?
Slipping in a question about the quarantine-- of course, there is now a two-week quarantine after arrival in New York from a set of states with high COVID infection rates. So do you think that students and faculty coming from out of states will have to satisfy both? Or is one enough?
GARY KORETZKY: Sure. So let me take the first question first, and that's who should be tested. The testing that we envision is really tied to the daily check-in-- that now faculty and staff are being asked to self-assess each day and report back on symptoms. If they've got symptoms, there's a help desk for them to call, and they might be asked to have testing if they have symptoms that make one concerned of COVID. We're going to add a functionality to this, and you'll be reminded that it's your day to be tested.
And so as I think that both Peter and Martha mentioned, all students will be tested on their surveillance schedule-- that's whether they live off campus or on campus. If they're matriculated as students at Cornell, and are in the Ithaca area, they'll be tested. Faculty and staff will be tested as well. They'll be tested likely on a different schedule than students. We haven't completely worked this out. And this relates very much to lifestyle and risks.
So the answer to your first question is that everybody will be tested. The second question was, what are we going to do about the summer? So we do know that students are coming back. And so we actually have a meeting today with Cayuga Medical Center. The plan is to set up testing clinics, even as they come back, that we will ask them to be tested on the first available date after they come back to the Ithaca area.
Right now, we have a lot of students living in the area. Their prevalence probably very much reflects the prevalence of our local community, just like our faculty and staff reflect the prevalence of our local community, which is very low. I'll just say parenthetically, we've tested over 1,000 faculty and staff already, and the degree of positivity is extremely low regionally. But as students come back, as Mike said, and Peter said, this becomes a risk. So we want to test students as they come back.
And your third question was about the mandatory quarantine that New York has imposed for individuals coming from particular states. We actually are advising that all students self-quarantine before they come back. And we're particularly interested, of course, in having students do that in areas of higher prevalence, which are these areas that New York has identified.
The reason why these areas are risky is because of community spread. And we would like our students to both be tested locally and quarantined locally. Once they come back, we will follow New York state's regulations. The students will be tested. So we've already worked this out with Tompkins County Health Department-- that they can leave quarantine for the purpose of being tested.
New York might make the decision that students coming back who are tested might be able to leave quarantine earlier. But we won't make that decision unilaterally. We're not able to make that decision, that we will follow both our local and state guidelines around that.
SPEAKER 2: OK, great. Gary, three questions about being inside buildings and working. One question is whether or not we're looking into air circulation and ventilation, given the new research on potential aerosolization of transmission. The second question is, can small meetings be held in conference rooms? Do we have similar rules for conference rooms that we do for labs? And the third question is about classes that require tastings. So you are masked for the class, but then you need to be tasting something, presumably wine. And so what will that university policy be regarding the removal of masks for those classes?
GARY KORETZKY: Yes, I'll take the last question first. I'm always sad that I never took that course as an undergraduate. And I know it's very popular. And of course, you can't taste wine or anything else when you're wearing a mask. I think it's a more general question, though, and that is that we've got guidelines around expectations in the classroom.
And there are studio classes where individuals have to work together, perhaps-- their laboratory classes, and there's thought about increased PPE for those. We are beginning, and Lisa and I've been talking about this, and thinking about a mechanism so that of course the instructional imperatives are met, but we do this as safely as possible.
So there'll be guidance for this. And the guidance will probably come from the set from Lisa's office, but then through the colleges. You know, because they really know what's happening in the different classes. So of course, we can't hold up a class that you can't teach, right, so that there has to be accommodations that are made, but we want to make those very, very thoughtfully.
I think your middle question was, what do you do about small groups-- people that want to meet face to face in conferences. Well, one of the things, of course, is that I think Lisa's going to be appropriating many of those rooms for classrooms, so there has to be the space that will be available. But this is something that we've got to be really, really mindful about. And that is I think that the notion should be anybody that can teach or do their work remotely, should. The idea's to de-tensify the campus.
So for example, if you have a lab group meeting and you can do it remotely, it's still a good idea-- the risk does occur when people are sitting together. The other thing to be really mindful of is that there may be individuals who are uncomfortable. So if you have a group of six or seven people that are supposed to be meeting and there's a lot of peer pressure-- we have to be really respectful that if there's somebody that feels that that's not right for them, that they have the option of being able to do this remotely.
And then the last thing is that it requires masks and it requires distancing. All of the things that we're talking about, all of the testing-- the testing is really after there's a viral spread, right, that somebody is infected. The way to prevent that is with masks and with distance. And so anytime we can encourage that, the better. And certainly, if groups of individuals are going to be meeting face to face, in my view, there has to be a really good reason to do that where you can't do that effectively remotely, and in that circumstance, that you have all of the cautions in place-- and, again, are respectful of anybody that may feel differently.
And then what do we do about air circulation? But as Martha said, we're trying to make decisions based on data. Unfortunately, or realistically, this is a new disease. How the virus spreads, we're learning more and more. There are emerging data that it is more complicated than what we had originally thought and hoped. Wearing a mask is even more important, but also understanding the HVAC in our buildings is critical, and being able to put in filters if that's going to help.
So we're working really closely with facilities on these questions. And they're following the emerging data as it comes forward. And we have to recognize we have some old buildings on campus, and we have to really be very thoughtful about that. So that is, like many of the things that we're talking about, a work in progress. But we want to do this very thoughtfully and intentionally.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thanks, Gary. I'm going to turn to Mike for two health related questions. The first one, I guess, is resources. Do graduate students and faculty need to provide their own PPE-- facemasks and face shields-- or is Cornell providing them? And then the second question has come up a couple of times over the question and answer. It's about your confidence in pooled testing and also in turnaround time for testing once we do get started in semester.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah. On the PPE, we will have a central store of PPE for individuals. So faculty, staff, students will not be required to obtain or provide their own PPE. We will have that for them. On the issue of pooled testing, it is an old scientific concept that's been in place for many, many, many different kinds of public health issues.
The one thing that people often get concerned about about pooling is around loss of sensitivity because of dilution of samples or other potential loss of the ability to isolate the RNA and identify positives.
There have been a number of publications around this, pooling up to all the way to 48, an Israeli study that identified all the positives and negatives. There are dimensional pooling approaches where you actually overcome some of the false negative problems by repeating an individual in more than one pool-- lots of ways to do this.
We're working carefully with the Wadsworth Lab, New York State Health, and New York state is actually sending us their positive samples. They've done quantitative PCR. They know they have very high virus load samples. They have very low virus load samples. They have samples in the middle. They're sending us those so that we can have confidence that we can detect these in our pooling process. And that will inform how much we pool and how we pool.
I should add-- there's a number of really good individuals that are working with us-- Jeff Pleis' lab. Jeff is an RNA expert that's been doing PCRs, many of us have, for decades. And so we're working very carefully to make sure we have good participation from our public health experts to be able to mount this effort, which I think has, as Martha said, given the fact that we don't have a zero risk possibility and we believe that this is the safest way to proceed, I do think this is providing some model, if you will, for other universities, perhaps businesses, to conduct business safely in a way that doesn't overwhelm the capacity or take away capacity of testing for individuals that are symptomatic.
SPEAKER 2: OK, thanks. So we're almost at the end of our hour, and I just have one final question for Mike, which seems like a good one to end on. If the students, even after all of this work, have to go home again, is there a plan?
SPEAKER 1: Yeah. As I mentioned in writing, this dashboard will allow us in real time to see what's going on. We have a number of ways we can respond. We can test more frequently, we can decrease sizes of classes. We can understand, we will understand where infections are occurring-- for example, if they occur in dorms with individuals that are living in the same dorm, we can see that, modify procedures-- all the way up to sheltering in place, closing down the campus, all of that, we will have plans in place to be able to respond in real time to what's going on.
SPEAKER 2: OK. Thanks. Mike, you want to take it out?
SPEAKER 1: Well, again, thanks, everybody. I think as you can see, this is really a community effort. I would point out that in addition to students saying that they're coming back to Ithaca whether we're online or residential, what we have heard overwhelmingly from students is the value they place on residential experience and interaction with faculty. That interaction has to be done carefully, it has to be done in a way that preserves public health. But I do think that in addition to discovering new knowledge and that mission-- our other primary mission is to give students the best kind of educational experience we can mount. And that's another thing I think we are all working together to try and achieve.
And I've just been enormously pleased by the overall sense of community that we've achieved from faculty and staff, as well as from our local community. So I thank everybody for that participation. Thanks, everybody. I think that closes us out. Please enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
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Wendy Wolford, Vice Provost for International Affairs, moderates a faculty town hall meeting July 6, to discuss reactivation of the Ithaca campus for fall 2020. Panelists: Martha Pollack, President; Mike Kotlikoff, Provost; Peter Frazier, Associate Professor, School of Operations Research and Information Engineering; Gary Koretzky, Vice Provost for Academic Integration; Lisa Nishii, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education; and John Siliciano, Deputy Provost.
On June 30, President Pollack announced plans for the fall semester, which includes a hybrid approach to a residential semester (with in-person, online and hybrid teaching modalities), robust virus testing, and modifications to the academic calendar that will allow students to begin classes on Sept. 2 and return home for Thanksgiving and finish the semester remotely. These plans apply to the Ithaca campus and Cornell Agritech in Geneva.