Surveillance testing set to begin Sept. 3

Provost Michael Kotlikoff, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Mary Opperman, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and Vice Provost for Academic Integration Gary Koretzky, sent the following message to the Ithaca and Geneva campuses Sept. 1:

As Cornell reopens for on-campus instruction, robust, recurring viral testing—along with such public health measures as mask wearing, social distancing, frequent hand washing/sanitizing and limiting travel and gatherings—underpins the university’s strategy to limit COVID-19 infection among our community. Beginning tomorrow, the focus of Cornell’s testing efforts will shift from arrival testing of incoming students to ongoing surveillance testing of all students living on campus or in the greater Ithaca area, as well as faculty and staff who are reporting to the Ithaca and Geneva campuses.

Because COVID-19 infection is often asymptomatic, early identification of individuals harboring the virus requires regular surveillance testing to monitor – and respond to – any potential spread among our community.

Testing Frequency

Testing frequency will vary by group. Information about testing, including scheduled tests, can be found in the Daily Check. It is critical that all community members adhere to the testing schedule. If your assigned surveillance testing day(s) will not work with your schedule, please use this form to request a change.

  • Undergraduate Students (in the Ithaca area) will be tested twice weekly, beginning Thursday, Sept. 3, regardless of course modality. In the Daily Check, you will see your testing frequency and assigned testing days: Mon/Thurs, Tues/Fri, Wed/Sat, Thurs/Sun, Fri/Mon, Sat/Tues, Sun/Wed.
  • Graduate and Professional Students (in the Ithaca/Geneva area) will be tested weekly, Monday to Friday, beginning Sept. 3, regardless of course modality. In the Daily Check, you will see your testing frequency and assigned testing day.
  • Faculty and Staff (at Ithaca/Geneva campuses) will be phased into regular surveillance testing, beginning Sept. 3 to 14. The frequency of tests depends on how much time you spend on campus, as well as other factors, such as contact with students and/or regularly work in close proximity to others in circumstances that don’t allow physical distancing. Please access the Daily Check in order to view your testing frequency and assigned testing day.

Additional information, including surveillance scheduling, site locations, hours and an animation that demonstrates how the test is performed, are on the COVID website at https:/

Cornell’s sampling sites for COVID-19 surveillance testing will follow a uniform protocol for supervised self-collection of anterior nares (front of the nostril) samples. Anterior nares sampling involves a noninvasive nasal swab. This short video provides an overview of what to expect when participating in surveillance testing.

Crucially, if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, do not report to a surveillance testing site. Instead, students should contact Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 and employees should seek testing at the Cayuga Health System Ithaca Mall testing site.

We all have a role to play to keep our campus safe, healthy and open, which is only possible by adhering closely to the university’s protocols for testing — as mandated by the Cornell Behavioral Compact and the Employee Expectation attestation — and practicing appropriate public health measures.

Media Contact

Abby Butler