Coronavirus update: Enhanced policies for international travel, campus events

Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Vice Provost for International Affairs Wendy Wolford and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi sent the following message to the Cornell community March 5:

University leadership has been meeting regularly to coordinate our response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), as state and local health officials continue to stress that the risk to the Cornell community – both in New York City and in Ithaca – remains low. We remain focused on the health and well-being of our campus communities, and in that spirit we are today announcing enhanced international travel and event policies, approved by President Pollack, including guidance for the upcoming spring break.

Please read this communication carefully, as the new policies and guidelines will impact all students, faculty and staff. All of this information, along with additional guidance and resources, can be found on Cornell’s coronavirus webpage.

Travel Restrictions and Mandatory International Travel Registration

As previously announced, in response to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York State Department of Health, all Cornell-related student travel to CDC Level 3 areas (mainland China, South Korea, Italy and Iran), as well as Japan, is prohibited. Faculty and staff who wish to travel to these areas for Cornell-related scholarship or business must receive approval from Cornell’s International Travel Advisory and Response Team (ITART) prior to travel. ITART members include the vice provost for international affairs, university counsel, dean of students and other leaders. 

In addition to the above-mentioned restrictions and out of concern for the ongoing health and safety of all Cornell community members, effective immediately:

  • Students are prohibited from traveling to any international destination for Cornell-related research or scholarship until further notice. Please speak with your program director or academic advisor if you have questions.
  • Faculty and staff who wish to travel to any international destination on Cornell-related research, scholarship or business must register their travel prior to departure. If you do not register your travel prior to departure, it will not be considered Cornell-related business and may impact your ability to be reimbursed for related travel costs.

We are also requiring any campus community member who is currently overseas on Cornell-related business or scholarship to immediately check in with the university so that we know that you are safe and we have your most up-to-date information and travel plans. 

While we have not historically asked any member of our community to register personal travel, we strongly encourage all students, faculty and staff to register their personal travel to international locations. Local, state and federal travel regulations and health guidelines are changing rapidly, and we want to be as responsive and supportive as possible should more changes occur. Those who register their personal travel will receive updates if the country they are visiting moves to a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 travel health advisory.

Off-Campus 14-Day Quarantine

As announced earlier this week, any student, faculty or staff member returning to the United States from a CDC Level 3 country or Japan is required to undergo quarantine at their permanent home residence for a minimum of 14 days prior to returning to campus. If undergoing quarantine at your permanent residence is not possible due to extraordinary circumstances, Cornell or the Tompkins County Health Department will provide temporary housing in Ithaca for use during the mandatory quarantine period; those individuals should contact Student and Campus Life at for assistance.

Student Option to Leave Study-Abroad Programs

Although we are happy for our students currently abroad to remain where they are, we understand that there may be heightened levels of concern in doing so given the fast-changing travel landscape. Thus, we are offering most students the option of leaving their international programs and completing semester credits online at their permanent home residence. Distance learning options will be available from Cornell, although we will not be able to provide a perfect match for classes that would have been completed abroad. More information will be sent directly to those students currently abroad.

Spring Break and Non-Essential International Travel

Out of concern for the health and safety of our faculty, staff and student community, we are urging anyone who is planning to travel internationally for personal reasons to refrain from doing so. Travel guidance from the U.S. Department of State, New York state and public health agencies continues to change, and there is no way to anticipate if, or when, additional travel restrictions may be issued that could impact your ability to return to campus. 

Many units across campus are diligently working to support students who wish to stay on campus over the upcoming spring break. Any student with on-campus housing or meal plans who intend to stay in their on-campus residence during the break should complete this brief survey so that we can be sure to have sufficient resources in place. 

Visitors to Campus

The spring semester is historically a busy time, filled with visitors attending campus tours, conferences and other special events both on- and off-campus. Visitors who have been in an impacted area (currently mainland China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan) within the past 14 days are not allowed to visit campus. This extends from the Ithaca to the Cornell Tech campuses, as well as to other Cornell locations, such as Cornell AgriTech in Geneva and all Cornell facilities in New York City (Weill Cornell Medicine has separate guidelines, available via their web portal). It is the responsibility of colleges, schools, units or departments organizing events or other activities to ensure that visitors have not been to one of these affected areas within the past 14 days. 

Large On- and Off-Campus Events

Effective Monday, March 9, we are postponing or canceling large (more than 100 people), non-essential events or work-related gatherings scheduled through April 15. This includes events sponsored by the university, colleges, schools, departments or units, as well as student-sponsored events, where a significant number of participants are expected to travel to or from the region for the event. This policy does not include on-campus events where participation is primarily by Cornell audiences.

Regularly scheduled academic courses are excluded from this policy. Faculty and staff may also wish to reconsider travel to non-Cornell professional meetings and/or conferences. In all instances, individuals should consider use of technology, such as Zoom videoconferencing, rather than in-person meetings. While we understand that such cancellations are disruptive and disappointing, it is essential that we prioritize both the health and safety of our campus community as well as our alumni, friends and visitors. 

Academic and Workplace Planning

While we do not currently anticipate that the virus will impact the university’s day-to-day operations, planning is underway by the provost’s office and academic and administrative leadership around the university to prepare for contingency plans that may be needed for research and teaching activities as well as for the overall operation of the university. 

In closing, please know that the university leadership and health and emergency professionals from across the university have been working tirelessly over the past several weeks to support the health and safety of our community in response to this growing public health issue. We are grateful for their ongoing efforts and encourage all supervisors to take a moment to talk to their teams about contingency and continuity planning, including for essential staffing and resource needs. If you need assistance, the Human Resources leads for each college and unit are here to help.

As the university continues to monitor the national and global impacts of the coronavirus, please know that the situation is fluid, and we anticipate that future policy changes or guidelines may be required over the coming weeks. Visit Cornell’s coronavirus webpage for ongoing updates. 

Thank you for your commitment to the health and safety of our community and please continue to take care of yourself and one another.


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John Carberry