[MUSIC PLAYING] RYAN LOMBARDI: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome. My name is Ryan Lombardi. I'm the vice president for student and campus life here at Cornell, and I'm really glad to be with you today. It's about a little after 4:30 on Wednesday, January 12th. I will tell you, it is frigid cold in Ithaca, New York, if you're not here. It is definitely winter. For those students who have been through winters here in Ithaca, we are fully in it. I couldn't even make it in today without putting an extra layer on over my outfit. It's that cold.
And my office is cold too, so you see my breath or anything like that, you'll know what's going on. I hope that you all are doing well, that the break has been restorative and restful for you. We, of course, at Cornell have been trying to work very hard to prepare for a successful reopening of the campus here in the near future. Very appreciative for you spending some time with us.
For those of you who haven't been on one of these forums before, I want to just go over the format. You obviously registered for this. You were able to pre-submit questions. Our approach today is that you're going to hear us speak-- a number of my colleagues and myself speak and try to answer many of the questions and touch on many of the topics that you raised in the questions that you submitted to us.
Obviously, since we scheduled this forum, we've sent a couple of additional messages. President Pollack wrote to our community yesterday. I was able to provide a few additional detailed updates today. And there will be more messages coming as the days unfold, as we approach the semester. For example, one of my guests today, one of my colleagues, will be providing additional detailed information about the academic experience as we get close to the start of classes.
So more to come too, but today we really wanted to just have a chance to address some of those things that seem to be most pressing. We did get a lot of questions, as you would expect, many hundreds of them. So we're trying to paraphrase and collect those in categories so that we can do the best to address some of the things that are on your mind.
I do want to acknowledge, for some of you we've been attending these forums now for going on two years. I've been a part of these with you, and I want to acknowledge that it's been a long journey. We certainly feel that here at Cornell. We know, families, that you feel that. We know, students, that you feel that. And we're going to do our best today to help prepare for this next iteration of life at Cornell during this pandemic.
I think it's safe to say that none of us want to continue to be in this circumstance. We all would very much prefer to be doing our normal jobs, our regular jobs, not in a pandemic universe. But we are trying to do the very best we can to support your experience and support the campus operations. Today, we're going to focus a lot on re-entry to Cornell and some of those initial days here on campus and a little bit, again, about these first couple of weeks.
As we have said, as I have said for, now again, more than two years, or almost two years, these are our plans. These are what we're planning to do as of today. Things may change and have changed over the last couple of years. I think I said to many of you that I hoped that we wouldn't be having more of these fora because we would be done and moving on, but here we are.
And I know there's an active and lively and worthy debate about pandemic versus endemic and whether we're there. And I think we all certainly hope that we're getting closer and that we can move on. But we do want to acknowledge that. I also want to say that students have made a really big difference in our success over these last couple of years and will continue to play a big role in that.
We work really hard on the campus to try to provide the right tools and infrastructure and opportunities for decision making. And I just want to acknowledge, students, your role. We continue to ask a lot of you, and that's been the case for a while. And I appreciate it. We need you again to do your part here, to let us know when you're coming, to share updates if you've had COVID over the break, a lot of details so that we know-- in your pre-departure tests, we know that if you've already had COVID and you can be exempt from testing.
A lot of these details will make your life easier and will make us have a better understanding of how we can support the community in the best way possible. So please review all the messages, the emails you get really careful. Review the COVID FAQs which you can find on our website, covid.cornell.edu. And we appreciate that.
So let me just start with a couple of broad comments, and then I'm going to introduce my colleagues and we'll get into some conversation with them. I first want to say that we acknowledge that, again, we're opening the spring not as we had hoped. We had a bumpy end to the fall semester as well. But we really do want to get to a sense of as normal as possible as quickly as possible. That's our goal here.
We want to try to repopulate the campus, get everyone back here safely, and as soon as we can get into that sense of normalcy for your academic experience and for the rest of your experience at Cornell. We want that as much as you, believe me. And we are cognizant as we think about some of the decisions we've made, especially even this spring, that your well-being is holistic and well-rounded.
And yes, there are impacts and negative impacts from a health perspective around COVID, but we're very in tune with mental health and wanting to do everything we can to support your holistic well-being during this time. So you will see some of the decisions that we've made around recreational activities or other things that can be done safely and reasonably during even our online and virtual instruction.
We're going to support those, attending some athletic events, those types of things, because we do realize that is an important part of your well-being. It's an important part of the college experience. So you've seen those in our announcements, and we will continue to focus on that as we go along. And you'll hear a thread as we hear from one of my colleagues in a little bit. They'll speak about a number of activities that we have set up and planned in the early days of the spring semester.
So I want to briefly pause and introduce my colleagues who are joining me today. And I'm just going to do that in speaking order of who will be with us. I'm going to introduce them briefly, and then I'll ask them to just say hello. Our IT folks will spotlight them so you can just put a face with the name. First is Dr. Gary Koretzky, who's a professor in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and also vice provost for academic integration here at Cornell. Gary?
GARY KORETZKY: Yes. So thank you so much, Ryan. And I am really pleased to be with you this afternoon/evening in Ithaca. As Ryan said, it's very cold out, but hopefully we've got some information that will really be useful for you. So thank you very much for having me join you.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thanks so much, Gary. Next, a fairly familiar face for many of you. I want to introduce Lisa Nishii, my colleague, who's vice provost for undergraduate education and a professor in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
LISA NISHII: Hello, everybody. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening wherever you are. Like Ryan said, it's not quite where we want it to be, but we're nevertheless really excited to see all of you back on campus and to have this campus full of life. So yeah, just looking forward to that.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks so much, Lisa. Next, another familiar face I want to introduce to you. That's Jenny Loeffelman, who's an assistant vice president in student campus life. Jenny?
JENNY LOEFFELMAN: Hi, Ryan. Thanks for having me. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm looking forward to talking to you all a little bit about campus engagement and what's going on campus these next few weeks.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks so much, Jenny. And last but certainly not least, a very familiar face, Pat Wynn, also assistant vice president for student campus life.
PAT WYNN: Hi, everyone. So, so happy to have you join us on this forum. I've been on too many of these, as some of you know. But we are going to have a great semester ahead of us. We're going to get through this thing, and we just can't wait to see you.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks so much, Pat. Appreciate it. And appreciate all of you for being here and spending your afternoon/evening, as was referenced-- at least how it is here in Ithaca-- with us and we answer these questions. So I'm going to start maybe a little different from those of you who've seen this in the past. I'm going to be joined on the screen now by my colleagues Gary and Lisa. So the three of us are going to come on, and I'm going to ask each of them some questions that came in from various perspectives around areas that I know they can be helpful.
As I kick off this section, I want to just offer a little bit of context. There have been questions about why we're starting our classes online for two weeks. And I think the president did a really nice job of articulating our rationale and the message that she sent out yesterday, so I hope you've had a chance to read that. I want to underscore, though, that the critical element here for us is to make sure that we provide academic continuity for our students.
We know that many students are going to test positive because of what we're seeing in the country. And we know students are going to have to isolate, either at home or once they get here to campus. We don't want to be in a situation where those students can't participate in class if they're able to do so. And by having everybody virtual, it ensures that continuity and, frankly, equity across the academic landscape.
And so I really do want to underscore that, for those of you who were here in December, you realize that the logistical challenge of so many students testing positive in such a short amount of time was really overwhelming. And that's particularly the case in a small community like Ithaca where food services and hotels and things like that are in limited supply.
And so we really need to be thoughtful about this time, and that's also why we're asking students to stagger your arrival. And so you saw some of this information that I sent out about-- that's why we're still opening on Tuesday as planned, and then you can come back any time between there and the start of in-person classes. Now, I will say, we want you to be really thoughtful. And Pat will talk a little bit about this later.
You really should try not to come back at the last minute if you can avoid that, because if you do happen to get COVID in transit and need to then isolate once you get here, you want to save yourself enough cushion of time to complete that isolation before those in-person classes start. So we don't want everyone coming right at the beginning or right at the end, but really trying to moderate out.
So talk with your roommates, talk with those that you live with if you're in congregate housing off campus, and really try to plan this out. And think about the decisions that you make and how that might impact your academic continuity as we approach the start of in-person classes. You'll also see and hear again why we're trying to do some activities in person, why we still have athletics, why we'll have some recreational things.
Academic continuity is not as critical in those situations, and some of those things can be done safely and appropriately so that it doesn't disrupt that continuity. So we have lots of protocols in place for those activities to take place. We realize the value they contribute to your holistic well-being. So with that I want to talk with a little bit more about pre-departure.
So again, my message today talked a lot about pre-departure with some real distinctions between if you live on campus and in certain housing versus if you live off campus. So I encourage you to refer to that for all of those details. And remind you of one critical element, that if you need an antigen test from us-- and I'll ask Gary to talk a little bit more about antigen tests in general in a moment-- today's the last day to request those.
There was a link in that email that I sent. Please make sure-- Amy's just put it-- my colleague has just put it in the chat here so that if you missed that link, you can go on, request an antigen test. We will mail one to you if you have trouble getting those where you live or that's not something that's accessible to you.
So I'm going to take a moment to go to Gary and ask a couple of questions about this pre-departure. Gary, why is it important that we're doing this pre-departure testing and why are we asking students to do this before they come?
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. Ryan, so it is critical, and it's critical for many of the reasons that you described. And I'll just amplify on a few of those. So many of you left Ithaca for the break. You traveled. Hopefully, you had opportunities to see family and friends and actually do the things that you do that make a break a. Break
Unfortunately, this happened at a time when this variant of SARS-CoV-2, Omicron, was first getting a foothold and then really became the predominant virus not just in Ithaca but in the country. And so unfortunately, many of you have acquired COVID over that period of time. Now, we're going to do testing when you arrive back in Ithaca.
If you acquired COVID while you were on the break, it is likely that you'll test positive even if you are asymptomatic, you never knew that you had COVID. And that will require it, when you come back, that you'll have to isolate. And we don't want that disruption. And we don't want that disruption for you, and we don't want that disruption for us. So the best guard against that is to test before you leave to come back to Ithaca.
And we're asking everybody to test, as Ryan said. We're providing antigen tests for all undergraduates that need the antigen tests. Please look at the message. And if you need one, let us know so we've got time to get one to you, because it's absolutely critical that you do that test before you leave. If you're positive, you shouldn't travel. You should isolate where you are. Take good care of yourself. COVID still can cause symptoms for individuals. We don't want you coming here feeling ill.
After you have isolated, you now no longer need to test. I think most of that if you've been positive, you don't need to be tested again for the next 90 days. You don't need to be isolated. So what you've done is you've actually been able to take that necessary isolation period at home before you travel back. So that becomes really, really important for you and also for us.
We want to welcome you back to Ithaca. We desperately want to welcome you back to Ithaca, but not asking you then to stay in your room or a hotel room for five days. So I can't emphasize enough the importance of getting tested before you leave.
RYAN LOMBARDI: And it will be more comfortable, likely, for you students, and it will also help with our isolation capacity as well. So we appreciate that. Now Gary, we've been talking about mailing antigen tests. And so a change and a shift in our strategy this semester has really been adopting a more widespread use of the antigen test. And can you explain to those who are watching today why that is an important strategy and why Cornell has chosen to do that?
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. So we've chosen antigen testing because we recognize, certainly for the pre-departure testing, that it might be difficult to get a PCR test. Also, when you do an antigen test you get the answer in 15 minutes. And Omicron is a variant of SARS-CoV-2 that transmits quickly. So if you do a test a week ago and now you do-- and you travel, there's the opportunity, of course, to acquire COVID within that week. With the antigen testing, you know right away.
The antigen testing that we can provide to you is available. You can do it on your own. We will ask you-- we have asked you that if you test positive with any modality to then let us know. You can do that through the daily check. If you test positive with the antigen test that you have at home, again, you'll know that in 15 minutes. There'll be a video available for you to look at. It will tell you how to do the antigen test, what to look out for.
We want to provide-- we want to make this as easy as possible. And similarly, when students arrive back, you're going to be arriving back. You'll be living with others. And we want to know whether or not you are COVID positive, whether you acquired that during travel, immediately, before you're living with roommates, so that we can isolate people appropriately.
There will be follow-on testing. And again, it will be antigen testing for those living on campus for the speed for those who are living with others to make sure that we identify people early on, because one of the things about COVID and one of the things especially about Omicron, is that it is transmissible. So the sooner we know, the sooner we can protect others.
So we're using PCR testing still. We're not abandoning that. We're using it for particular purposes. But we're also using antigen testing for this purpose. And I think that's a hallmark of our response, that we are nimble, that we change what we do based upon the circumstances. And the circumstances with Omicron really dictated that we think carefully about the approach and react. And this is, I think, the best plan that we've got to, again, avoid as much disruption as possible
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Gary. I'm going to ask one more question of the pre-departure/testing in a moment. But I just want to underscore a point he made, which is this letting us know if you have tested positive over the break, and underscoring that, if you have-- and I hope you're OK if you have-- but to let us know that so that then you are exempted from additional testing and isolation for 90 days, which I think is really important and probably good for you to let us know that so that you don't have to go through some of those steps again.
Gary the last thing I want to just ask briefly, and you touched on this, is that you said we'll do some continued extended arrival testing after the pre-departure and after the initial arrival. Can you just speak very briefly about what that's going to look like?
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. So very briefly, we've learned with every time we've brought students back after an extended break that there are some that return with COVID and then there's some spread. And so what we are doing now is that we're planning this extensive arrival testing. It will be for just a few weeks. But the idea is that undergraduates will be tested twice a week. And the notion is that if we missed you with our antigen test, if you acquired COVID after you were here, that we will identify individuals quickly.
And again, that's one of the very, very important reasons that we'll be online for two weeks, because that will require isolation. So we want to get all of that done early on. And so we are going to be asking all of our returning students to test as soon as they come back, twice a week for a brief period, so that we can identify that first potential spread of infection and control it before classes start.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thank you, Gary. We'll speak a little bit more about isolation here, and then we'll jump in just a moment to some academic questions. My colleague, Lisa, we'll ask her to jump on. So with isolation, folks, I do want to remind you and point out a few of the differences that you may have seen in some of our announcements.
It is our expectation, because we're going to have high case counts as all of our peer institutions who have already started are seeing on their campuses, there will be a lot of isolating in place. Of course, that is already the standard protocol and the default for students who live off campus. And for on campus, we did do that in December. And we will be planning to do that again as students come in, particularly if they live in single rooms or what we sometimes call functional singles.
So if one roommate is back and tests positive in their arrival test that Gary was just speaking about, my advice at that point is to let your roommate know right away that you're here, you're positive, you're in your room, and encourage that roommate to delay their return so that then people don't have to be misplaced upon arrival. That's another benefit to having this almost three-week period of time for folks to come back into campus.
So we'll be doing that. Of course, we will still have isolation hotels, as we have since the start of this. And we will make sure that people can safely isolate to the extent that we continue to have capacity and are able to do that. Pat will talk a little bit about food, but we will have designated on-campus locations for students in isolation on campus who can then go, grab a pre-prepared meal, take it back to their room and continue their isolation period.
Now I want to just go to Gary for one more question before we switch to a few of these academic questions. And Gary, that is about the new isolation guidance around the five days from, I think, the CDC in New York state, and then what students should expect at the end of the five days, how that works here.
GARY KORETZKY: Right, Ryan. So I just want to start that by making sure everybody knows that all of our strategies, all of our plans are discussed with the health department. I meet every week with the director of Tompkins County Health. It's a great relationship. And as we think about things that we're doing, we do this completely together with them. So we are lockstep with the health department. We're following all of the guidelines to the letter.
One of the things that we know about Omicron is that it transmits quickly, but for not as long. And it is safe for individuals to isolate for 5 days instead of 10. And they're able to leave as long as they don't have a fever and as long as their symptoms are resolving. So if you begin to have COVID on day one and you've got cold symptoms, headache, even fever, if by day five those symptoms are resolving and you no longer have fever, then your isolation period is over.
We do ask you to be really careful with masking afterwards, but you are no longer required to be in the hotel. You're no longer required to be in your dorm room, that if this happens when classes are in session, you're able to return to classes, that you're no longer isolated after five days-- a big difference. However, if you're still considerably symptomatic, if you're not getting better, we do have-- we will continue to support you during that isolation period. So this reduced period of isolation is a real benefit for being able to get back to normal life, but we want everybody to just do it really cautiously.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thanks, Gary. Gary, I'm going to kick over to some questions for Lisa here, but I will be back with a few more for you in just a couple of minutes. Lisa, I wanted to ask if you could talk a little bit more for students about this period of time where we will have virtual classes. So there's an arrival. There's this two week of virtual classes.
And we got a lot of questions from students about how to navigate that time. Should they stay home and take them? Should they come here and take them? Will there be anything going on? If I'm doing research, can I do research? How would you give advice to our students about navigating that online time frame until the 7th of February?
LISA NISHII: Yeah, it's a great question. I think you answered a lot of this earlier in your intro. It's entirely up to students whether they want to participate in the virtual classes from home or here on campus. But there are a number of things to consider as you try to make that decision. So Ryan talked earlier about the importance of staggering your arrival. So coordinating with your roommates, that would be extremely helpful.
But other questions, like how conducive is your home versus campus living environment for participating in online classes? So many students live in doubles and triples, and so it may be distracting to have your roommates in class when you're participating in online classes. We will have classrooms and classroom buildings open and available to students so that you can go there to participate in online classes-- not all of them, but there will be some that are open.
Just thinking about that, I'd like to remind you to bring a headset and to use that when you are participating in these classes so that you don't disturb other students who are doing the same. Other things to think about. So this was mentioned before, but I'm going to mention it again. So students are expected to be back in Ithaca ready for in-person classes on February 7th.
So if you push it too far to that deadline, then you could end up missing some of the initial part of the in-person period if, in pre-departure or post-arrival testing, you end up turning positive and needing to go into isolation. We are going into in-person, so faculty are expecting to teach in-person starting February 7th. Of course, they will know that some students will likely continue to be in isolation after that period, but an online option will not necessarily be available for classes.
So please keep that in mind. There will be other ways for faculty to help students keep up with their work if they are in isolation, but that's definitely something to think about. The last thing that I would say is that if you missed any of your in-person exams at the end of the semester in the fall because you were in isolation during finals and you are expecting to take a makeup exam in person, then it's important for you to get in touch with your instructors about the timing of that makeup exam.
I think some have been scheduled. A lot of them are in the process of being scheduled. And so you'll want to plan around that to the extent possible. I think that's it.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Lisa. Maybe if you could touch a little bit too-- I know I've gotten a couple of questions from students about research or other academic activities prior to the in-person classes. And how should they think about navigating that, talk to their principal advisors, et cetera?
LISA NISHII: Absolutely, that's always a good place to start. Overall, our thinking about that is that some of these activities, not only are they important for your education, but they can only be done in person. And it's important for us to support that progress. And so there are research activities, and that also includes project teams that have work that can only be done in person.
And it will be possible for students to begin that, of course with all these precautions in place. However, at the same time, if you are doing research or you're part of project teams where the work can be done remotely, that is our preference during this time. However, all classes, just general classes, will be held online, with a few exceptions.
For example, in the College of Veterinary Medicine, some of the clinical labs are in person. But you would be hearing about that directly from your program. So it's better to think about all classes being in person. We got some questions about PE classes. So what about those? And so PE classes meet 18 hours over the course of the semester.
And so for most classes, PE classes will start after that online period once the in-person part starts, and there'll still be enough time for students to get in all of their 18 hours. There are a few exceptions, so skiing, because we can't-- although it does feel like winter forever here, skiing isn't always possible past a certain point. And so those will begin during the first week.
However, we know that some students won't be able to get back in time, in which case there will be opportunities for students to make up that time for those classes. Knowing that there's some shuffling going on here, one other question we got was about the drop deadline for PE classes. And that will be extended for two weeks in order to account for what's happening here.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thank you for pulling that out. That question came a number of times. Lisa, it's a tough question, but we do get it a lot, which is this question about why we can't be in a state of perpetual hybrid education, where it's either in-person or online? And I know that's tough, but maybe for the benefit of our audience you could speak to a little bit about the challenges that presents for the faculty.
LISA NISHII: Sure. One, we didn't want students to feel some pressure to be here in person because some students are in person at a time when a lot of students are likely to test positive and need to isolate at home. So that was one of the considerations. You mentioned faculty. It's absolutely the case that hybrid is a huge, huge lift for faculty and staff. And it's very difficult to do.
It's also the case that actually a lot of our classrooms-- I would say the majority of our classrooms are not set up to support hybrid instruction because you need good quality video and audio, but audio not just for the faculty member but what's happening in the classroom with other students. And we're just not set up for that. So it doesn't end up being as good a quality experience for students.
And also, we want to be mindful of the fact that there are likely to be faculty and staff during this surge who also need to be at home to care for themselves if they're positive, perhaps for family. And so overall, we just felt one mode is the cleanest, simplest, easiest, and also most consistent and equitable for students. So that's the way that we're going.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Yeah. That makes sense, Lisa. And I think you made a really important point there too, which we haven't really talked a lot about today, but it comes up in my exchanges via email with parents and students about different things that were not going to do in these first two weeks in person-- for instance, grab and go. And Pat will talk about this.
We also have to preserve our staff and faculty. Like everyone is reading across the country right now, restaurants are closing because staff are having to isolate. We can't ignore health department guidance and rules in these things. So if we have a lot of our dining hall staff test positive early on because we have full in-person dining, we will very quickly not be able to feed the campus.
LISA NISHII: And we want to be able to feed you. Yeah, exactly.
RYAN LOMBARDI: That's right. And so there is this balance. I just want to articulate this for everybody, and Lisa pointed to it in regards to the faculty. It really does span the campus. We have to make sure that we're also, in this time where we know there's going to be high prevalence, that we have the faculty, the staff to do what needs to happen to keep this campus going and get us to that point of February 7th when we're in person.
Lisa, any other advice you'd give before we get a couple of last questions for Gary? Any other pieces of advice or nuggets that you'd want to offer for folks as they think about their academic transition here?
LISA NISHII: I think I mentioned this, but I'm not sure. One thing that I did want to say is that after we go back to in person, it's important for students not to assume that there will be a way for them to connect with classes online or virtually if they are in isolation. Again, I told you about the classroom setups. They're really not set up to do that. Faculty are of course prepared, like they were last semester and the semesters before, to help students keep up, but it's important not to expect that that's going to be an option.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. Thank you so much. It's very helpful information. Switching gears a little bit now, I want to just talk briefly about masks. And you've seen, if you read my note that came out today, a little bit more clarity around that. The real key here, folks, our expectation is that we're really moving away from the use of cloth masks.
The very first initial message referenced, as an example, N95s and KN95s, but we want to be clear that there are more high-quality masks that can be used effectively on campus beyond just those couple that we named. And this should always be done-- I'm going to ask Gary to speak a little bit more about the importance of masks and why we are going to still do this.
This should always be done indoors for sure, and then outdoors as well when spacing is not feasible you should make sure to have a mask on as well. And we know these can be costly and they can be hard to come by, so we are providing-- we will be providing those throughout the semester as well. So I want to just be clear. Again, it's not just N95s or KN95s. A good quality surgical mask, other high quality masks can work.
But Gary, can you just speak a little bit more about why it is important? Your medical background. Why it's important to continue to have diligence around mask wearing and what we plan to do there.
GARY KORETZKY: Yeah. And it's really quite simple. This is a respiratory virus, and that's how it spreads. We know that when you wear a quality mask, you afford yourself considerable protection. When the person who has COVID is wearing a mask, they really, really-- it makes a big difference in stopping the spread of the virus from them to others.
Many of us will have COVID and not know it. Wearing a mask prevents, to a large extent, that transmission. So masks really matter. They particularly matter, as Ryan said, inside. They matter-- and we're inside in the winter. It's going to be pretty cold the next week, and so people will be doing things that they might at other times of the year do outside where they're more spread apart. They're going to be inside.
So we feel really strongly that masks are going to be very, very important to control the extent of spread of the virus. As Ryan said, there are different types of masks. We want to demystify this. There will be, I think, a very complete website that will describe what masks are available at Cornell and the rationale behind those choices.
Again, as Ryan said, cloth masks are not adequate. However, you don't have to wear an N95. You don't have to wear a KN95. They are less comfortable, but surgical masks which can be standardized we know are of the quality that will be sufficient. So they will be available. They'll be available at the testing sites. They'll be available around campus.
This will not be something that you'll have to purchase. There'll be instructions on how to use them, when to change them. It's not a mask a day. That we need to maintain control over the resources. This is an important resource for everybody. And we'll ask you to use them, and we'll ask you to use them in a way that we hope will not be overly deleterious, not overly uncomfortable. The key thing is fits well and is not a cloth mask.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great. And I know-- look, many of us would much prefer not to be wearing masks anymore. But again, as we were just speaking about, this is a community comprised of students, and certainly we have a lot of focus on students, but we have faculty and staff and lots of community members here at Cornell. And so do it for yourselves, but also do it for others around you who may very much benefit from being protected.
Last topic with Gary and Lisa on the screen here that I want to touch on that we have some more is around boosters. Lots of questions and debate about boosters. And you know that we have, as an institution, asked students to get a booster by January 31st or as soon as they're eligible based on when they might have gotten their second dose or their last dose of the vaccine.
We will continue to provide reminders if you haven't been able to do that yet or as you become eligible for sure. And we may start to restrict access across campus, but we will not do that without giving you proper notice and many chances to let us know if you're going to be boosted. Gary, as a last question, I just want to ask you, because we have gotten an awful lot of questions about this, why are boosters so important and why are they so critical to our overall strategy?
GARY KORETZKY: And Ryan, I think that this follows very nicely from the theme of masks. Boosters and vaccination are critical to protect you, but also to protect others. And one of the things that I can't stress enough is how important this sense of community is. And we're going to be asking a lot of people. We're going to be asking people-- a lot of this-- the testing, a lot of your results are self-reported.
We really want to make sure that people take on this responsibility, and one of them is vaccination. So I'll just tell you why. So in the last two years, we've learned a tremendous amount about SARS-CoV-2. And there has been a singular amazing success, and that is the development of vaccines. They have truly been life saving, and they really, really matter.
But we've learned two things since the vaccines have been developed. The first is that immunization gives you very, very good protection, but that protection wanes over time. So that a degree of protection that you get after your second dose of one of the mRNA vaccines or after Johnson and Johnson vaccine is great, but it wanes.
The other thing that we've learned is that, as the virus has changed, this variant, Omicron, which is a dominant variant in the country, is less sensitive to the immunity that you develop with two doses of an mRNA vaccine or a dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine. We know further, however, that that third dose makes a huge difference. And it makes a difference both in protecting you from significant disease, from hospitalization, but it also makes a big difference in whether or not you're going to acquire COVID and then be able to transmit it.
So this is a community responsibility. Many, many young people will get COVID. They may never know it. However, if they're vaccinated, it's less likely that they're going to get COVID. If it's less likely that you get COVID, then certainly it's less likely you'll get ill from COVID, but also it will be much less likely that you would transmit it to another member of the community who might be more vulnerable.
So thinking a lot about this, thinking about the risk and the benefits, it was a very easy and clear decision that boosting makes a big difference for a community like ours, where people do things together and they interact a lot. There are different members of the community with different vulnerabilities. And this, we feel strongly, will make a big difference.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thank you so much, Gary. And I appreciate the focus on community and certainly your expertise in this regard. I want to thank Gary and Lisa for your time and thoughts and answering a lot of those questions here. We're going to switch gears a little bit now and let Gary and Lisa take a little break. And I'm going to invite a few of my other colleagues to give you some updates around campus life and what you can expect as you come back.
First up, I'm going to ask Jenny Loeffelman to share with you some of the activities we have set up over the next couple of weeks and how we do hope to make this time as fulfilling as possible and a lot of activity and things for you to do. So Jenny, you want to talk a little bit about what we have in store for folks?
JENNY LOEFFELMAN: Sure. Thanks, Ryan. Appreciate all the information. And so much of what we're doing in the classroom and virtually and with masks and with vaccines is so that we can still operate in the way that our students and we want to operate from a campus activities and involvement perspective. So I'm going to go through things pretty quickly here, but I am going to put a lot of links in the chat.
And so please feel free to grab those links and get yourself more information because our websites are full of calendars and activities and events, and they're constantly being updated. So first and foremost, I'd like to speak about orientation. We're very excited to welcome new students to Cornell this January. Winter orientation will be virtual, and we encourage all new students and families to check out the orientation schedule that will go live tomorrow, January 13th, at newstudents.cornell.edu.
New students can expect to receive a welcome email from your orientation leader this Friday. And then, following that, orientation will take place from January 20th to January 23rd, with the first session beginning at 2:15 next Thursday, January 20th. Families of new students and parents are invited to join us for the first day of orientation to participate in family and parent organized events.
If you're unable to attend, don't worry. We will be recording these sessions, and they'll be made available on that New Student Programs website as well. Parents and families, if you're not already signed up for communications to come directly to you, please do that. This link that's in the chat right now will make sure that you are getting all the parent and family communications that Cornell sends out.
So that's it with orientation. Like I said, much more online, but we're excited to welcome many new students to Cornell this January. We've gotten a lot of questions about fraternity and sorority life. This is the busy time for recruitment for sororities and fraternities on our campus. We will be doing the same schedule as planned, but we will be doing it entirely virtually.
So please make sure that you have registered if you're interested in joining a fraternity or sorority. The registration is still open both for Panhellenic and IFC recruitment. And their website will be the best source of recruitment-related information. The sorority and fraternity new member process will also be virtual, but only until in-person events are approved. We are hoping that some of the new member process can take place in person once those events are approved to happen.
Also with sororit and fraternity social events, those will be postponed to the first couple of weeks of the semester but will resume when on-campus activities resume on campus as well. We continue to work with our house sororities and fraternities to help best prepare them for housing students. Pat's going to talk about this in a little bit.
But all students living in sorority and fraternity housing will follow the on-campus housing testing protocols. So whether you live in a sorority or fraternity house that is university owned or privately owned, you will still be participating in the testing program. Back to on campus activities and recreation, there's numerous virtual and in-person events that we're organizing and getting ready for the beginning of the semester.
January 24th to February 20th, that first full month of school, will mark our Weeks of Welcome celebration, or WOW is what we've been calling it lately. WOW is a celebration of new semester with numerous virtual and in-person events, meetings, workshops, and lots to do across campus. The WOW calendar pulls all of these activities together in one place. So please check out the campus activities website for our Week of Welcome schedule of events. Like I said, some of it will be virtual the first couple of weeks, and then we'll be doing a lot in person in February.
One of our biggest signature programs that we're excited we'll be able to do in person is our annual club fest. We'll feature over 900 student organizations. It's a great way to figure out what's going on on campus and how to get involved in our clubs and organizations. Additional information about the event for both attendees and organization leaders-- so if you plan to host a table at club fest-- is available on our Campus Activities website. And the link is there.
Lots of planning is coming out right now with recreation, sports clubs, and athletics. So I'm going to take a couple of minutes here to tell you about that. First, sports club activity will resume normal after February 7th. Changes to the guidelines in sports activities for clubs is being updated on our university Health and Safety website through Campus Activities. So that link is there. It's very specific just to sports clubs.
Fitness centers and Helen Newman bowling, we do plan to open those when students move back. So starting Tuesday, January 18, fitness centers will be back open. But facility hours may be shortened, so make sure you check the hours on the Recreation Services website. Group fitness classes will resume in person on Monday, January 24th. And we'll keep the website updated there with that schedule as well.
Recreational services also offer pre-recorded fitness classes. So if you're looking to do something online and from home or remote, make sure you check out that calendar. We have tons of classes-- Zumba, yoga, all kinds of things that you can do virtually. The Climbing Center is open and will be open. Hours are available on their website.
And then more information about intramural sports will be coming out these next couple of weeks, but they will most likely not resume until after the 7th. But we are planning to resume intramural sports in person as well once we can. Pools will be opened with a limited capacity, but all patrons will be required to remain in compliance with testing and re-entry. But the pools will also be open.
Last but certainly not least, with athletics we are resuming athletic activities as well as contests are still occurring. But events are limited in capacity and tickets must be secured in advance. So all of our teams will still be competing, will still be practicing, but spectators may be limited just because of size. There will not be tickets available for purchase at the door on game days, so make sure you get those tickets in advance.
VIP cards and the Big Red sports pass can't be used at this time. If you possess one of those, please contact the athletic ticketing office, and they will get you a secure e-ticket. All ticket purchases must be made online at bigredtickets.com. Also visit bigredtickets.com before attending an event, and all the updates for the different athletic events will be posted there with all of our teams and how many meets we have and games we have.
But it's hard to go through it all right now, so please make sure you refer to that website. There's tons of information there. And we encourage you to get out and see our teams. Libraries will be open. They'll be open as soon as courses begin virtually. So they will be open for you to go to the library during the time even before the classes start in person.
A couple more questions have come in just about things going on on-campus and what's virtual versus in-person. The David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement is planning to return to in-person service, both volunteer opportunities and service opportunities, after February 7th. There are many options for you to learn more about opportunities to get involved, including during orientation and at club fest with service and engagement. So please make sure to check out their website.
Career services is also going to be available virtually for individual appointments. Visit the Cornell Handshake website to learn about dozens of career prep workshops scheduled for the spring semester. Mark your calendar for the virtual spring career fair on Wednesday, February 16. Additional details about that are in the chat.
So campus involvement, athletics, rec sports, career services, Einhorn Center, pools-- I think we got to most of it, Ryan. Again, hopefully we gave you some links that you can get additional information. But that's what I have for you today, and I'll send it back to you, Ryan.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Great, Jenny. Thank you very much. Lots going on. And I know many of you were probably eager to hear that yes, we will be playing hockey. We like-- I like lots of sports. I'll speak for myself. I like lots of sports, but I really like hockey. One of my kids plays hockey. But as Jenny referenced, we will have reduced capacity for spectators, and so make sure to get your tickets. That applies for basketball, other winter sports that are going on. Our basketball teams are playing well right now. Very much look forward. These are great outlets, especially during virtual classes.
I want to just make a couple of comments before I ask Pat to talk a little bit more about housing and dining. A couple of other questions that have come in, lots of questions about spring break and spring break plans. We have not changed the academic calendar. So February break, spring break are still in the plans. We are not intending to remove those. We know that breaks are important, and those are still on the schedule.
I also had a lot of questions about graduation, and we are still planning full steam ahead with graduation in May as well. Graduation in general will change a little bit this year because the class sizes have gotten so large that we'll need to make some accommodation there. But it'll be in person, a great experience, all the things that you would hope for graduation.
So just want to let we are planning full steam ahead with both of those things. I wanted to make sure to get those out of the way before I asked Pat to jump in here. Pat, I know you're going to talk a little bit about housing and dining with a little more detail and share some information for folks, so I'll let you take it away.
PAT WYNN: Thanks, Ryan. And great job, Jenny. Wow. Your team has put together an amazing agenda for the students coming back. And it's terrific that you guys have put all this work into that, so thank you. So I'm going to provide some more information about move-in and dining and housing. And I guess I just want to start by saying, please pay very careful attention to information that is coming to you both from the University and also from the Office of Housing and Residential Life about arrival to campus.
We don't want you to miss an important message. As Ryan said earlier, things could change. So please ensure that you're paying attention to your email. Make sure that you've completed your pre-departure testing and have uploaded your information into the Daily Check system. Those are very important things to do.
Students who are moving into on-campus housing or returning to campus from winter break should really try to be here no later than February 2nd in order to complete your arrival test and to be available to attend in-person classes beginning on February 7th. If you get here on the 2nd, that gives you the five days to quarantine if you are in fact testing positive.
Students who test positive during pre-departure testing should please stay home until you complete your isolation period. Students really need to ensure that the winter-spring checklist is updated in Daily Check for accurate arrival information. If you're returning or moving into on-campus housing-- and that includes residence halls, program houses, University-owned co-ops, even Hasbrouck and fraternities and sororities-- please also update your arrival information in the housing portal.
You will be receiving additional information from the Office of Housing and Residential Life this week, including a new check-in tool in Star Res. So you will be emailed a message to go into the Housing Portal and click the Check in button. And that lets us know that you have arrived and that you are in room. And again that, website is housing.cornell.edu.
Students who have tested positive for COVID in the past 90 days are welcome to campus with all others. They will not be expected to test until their 90-day window is complete. Arrival and enhanced testing for students will help us determine who should be in the residence halls and who will need to be moved to alternative housing. We ask the students are assigned to doubles or triples to please be in touch with your roommates to coordinate those arrival dates and times.
And again, please update the winter-spring checklist accordingly as well as the Housing Portal so we can provide the best support possible and be able to contact you as needed. Antigen tests will be provided to residents at least through the first month of the spring semester at their regular testing sites.
As for dining, I will tell you that there will be several dining facilities that are open prior to this 18th. So Bear Necessities in Robert Purcell will actually open on 1/15. Crossings Cafe in the New Morris and Dining Hall will open on 1/16. The Robert Purcell Dining Hall will be open from 1/15 to 1/17, but then on the 18th it will convert to just isolation meals, which I'll get to in a minute.
And we are so excited that Morrison Dining, our flagship incredibly beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful new dining hall, will be opening on January 18th. You are going to be stunned by the beauty of this dining hall. And you will say, am I on a college campus? I think I'm in New York or London or Paris. It is truly, truly beautiful. It's a work of art, and we are so excited about this.
So as far as meals, if students are isolating in their rooms should they test positive, we are designating two of the residential dining rooms for meal pickup, and that is Robert Purcell and Willard Straight Hall. Students will be permitted to leave their rooms to pick up their meals in those dining rooms throughout their isolation period.
If someone is too ill to make that trip back and forth, we are asking these students to certainly enlist their friends to pick up the meals for them. And there will be no questions asked when you are picking up these isolation meals. If you're a designated person to pick up meals for three people, you'll be able to pick up meals for three people. You won't even be swiping in. We are trying to keep this as no contact as possible to protect you and also protect the dining staff.
If you have special needs, we ask you to please contact Cornell Dining ahead of time. Whether your pre-departure test is positive or negative, whether you get here and you test negative or positive, we just want to give them ample time to be able to service you, whether you're vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, tree nut allergies, whatever the case may be-- halal, kosher.
We want to be able to provide those meals for you. And the dining team is more than prepared to do that, so please just let us know what your needs are. So all of the dining will be open for takeout. And that will be for the first several weeks of the semester. And again, dining halls other than Robert Purcell and Woullard Straight Hall will be open to all students who test negative. And that will be for takeout only for those first few weeks.
Now, once we've moved beyond that period, our dining rooms will reopen for dine-in options as well as takeout options. However, dining service is, of course, subject to change throughout the semester as necessary just to keep all of us safe-- students, staff, faculty, and visitors. So that's a brief overview of housing and dining. And certainly reach out to our websites for more information. And thank you all so much. And we can't wait to see you.
RYAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Pat. I appreciate it, and I appreciate you talking up Morrison Dining too. I had a chance at the end of the semester last semester to go in there and cook myself with some of my Meinig mentees, and it was outstanding. Not what I cooked, but what the chefs cooked.
It was amazing. The facility was incredible. I have a couple of important reminders. We're getting close to the end here, but I do have a couple of important things I want to highlight just to make sure and reiterate. Please make sure to update your rival plans in the spring checklist and in the housing portal if you live on campus. Please be sure to do this.
Remember, if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days, please upload that information to Daily Check. That will take you out of the testing, isolation, any of that kind of stuff, and it will help us understand how many students still might need to be supported. Remember to request an antigen test through the link sent today by the end of the night tonight-- well, "end of the night." 11:59 tonight. Please be sure to do that.
Upload your pre-departure test before you leave to head towards campus. If you test positive, stay where you're at and take care of your isolation there. As soon as you get to campus, get your antigen test. Take the second-- the arrival test and upload those results. Do it immediately. You'll also get the antigen test for the next couple of weeks. You'll have to do those as soon as you get them. This is not something to delay. We want to make sure to keep everybody cleared and make sure we know where the positives are and make sure we can support students in isolation.
And finally, let's get ready for spring semester. I know based on some of the reactions to emails that there's a lot of disappointment, of course, which I share, and hope at the same time that this is short lived. That is certainly our intent, I want to underscore. A lot of speculation about this online and elsewhere. It is not a bait and switch. We are doing everything we can to make sure and drive towards a fully in-person experience for you and for our campus.
This is the way we think we have to accomplish that that keeps our students able to go to school and out of isolation, and also our faculty and staff. We have to emphasize that we have to be able to keep this whole infrastructure going. It's not just one population or the other. It's all of us that are interdependent in these initial couple of weeks to make sure we've got the people that support the student experience, we've got the students that can take the classes and do all the great things that Cornell has to offer, and we can all get through this and get into a great semester together.
I do, though, want to thank you and appreciate your patience through this. I know it's tough. It is exhausting for me and my team and everybody here on campus to have to make these turns, left and right, constantly. I know it's exhausting for you. I know we all just want it to be over and want to move forward-- or I'll just say I do for sure. And I have to use "I" statements. I'm learning this.
And so we want to do everything we can to move forward. But I do recognize the toll and the challenge and just ask that you continue to take care of yourself, take care of each other. Be kind to yourself and to each other. Everybody is struggling in some way, shape, or form. Even if they're not impacted by COVID directly, they may have some peripheral relationship. Even if people are just exhausted and worn out-- you're tired of this. Let's be kind to those people who are trying to help out. Let's be kind to each other as we try to navigate this process.
I want to thank my colleagues who joined us today. I want to thank the team, our tech folks and our communications folks behind the scenes that have helped pull this webinar off. And I mostly want to thank all of you, our students and our families, for continuing to support us and continuing to do what it takes to make sure we can move forward with a great semester.
I look forward to seeing you back on campus. You can tell I'm sitting in my office right now. It's dark out. I'm looking out at the clock tower. I'm about to walk out in the frigid weather to my car. But take good care. I look forward to seeing you back on campus in the coming days. And we will make it a great spring semester one way or another. Thank you so much, everybody, and have a good evening.
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University leaders held an informational forum January 12, to provide students and parents with updates on spring semester plans.