President Martha E. Pollack sent the following message to the Cornell community March 20:
As you know, Cornell has been working with public health officials to monitor the ongoing spread of the virus. Earlier today, we were notified that the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19 within the Ithaca campus community of faculty, staff and students.
Cornell is working with TCHD to support the health and safety of the individuals (who have been in isolation and receiving ongoing care) and of the broader community. TCHD, upon confirmation of the positive cases, conducted immediate contact tracing and identified and communicated with close contacts of the positive cases.
As you know, privacy is critical in the realm of health care and public health. To that end, I call upon our entire community to respect and protect the rights of these members of our community to the full benefits of privacy as mandated by law.
I appreciate that this news is difficult, though it is not entirely unexpected given the rise in confirmed cases nationally and globally and the recent news of the first confirmed cases in the county. But as I have mentioned in my prior messages, public health experts are clear that the best way that we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is through social distancing — minimizing the number of interactions that provide the opportunity for the disease to spread. Our actions to date have been grounded in this expert guidance, and I can’t underscore enough the importance of embracing social distancing, whether you are a student remaining on one of our campuses, living off-campus in Ithaca or New York City, or spending the remainder of the semester at home or abroad; whether you are a faculty or staff member working remotely from home; or a staff member working on-campus to carry out essential work responsibilities.
Should additional positive cases be identified among our campus community, TCHD will continue to communicate with anyone who needs to be notified. And, as always, please continue to consult Cornell’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date information (including the number of confirmed cases) and FAQs, along with all of the messages that have gone out to date to students, faculty and staff.