(Photo of Cornell's Arts Quad, courtesy of the university)

ITHACA, N.Y.—A week after a spike in positive cases led Cornell University to adjust its COVID-19 outbreak threat level to yellow, indicating a worsening campus situation, the school has lowered it back to green, the lowest threat level on its COVID-19 dashboard. Positive tests have slowed significantly over the last several days, as the school enters its third week of classes.

The change was announced Wednesday morning in a campus-wide message from Provost Michael Kotlikoff and Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi, congratulating the campus on the streak of low positive tests but asserting the need for further adherence to the school’s installed rules.

“While it is encouraging to return to Alert Level Green, do not mistake this as an indicator that we can let our guards down. If we have learned anything during the pandemic, the virus can spread quickly, easily, and within very small groups,” Kotlikoff’s message states. “Each one of us must continue to take every precaution to keep both our campus and local community safe.”

When the school went to yellow alert level last week, it announced further restrictions on student gatherings for collaborative work or studying, limiting them to 10 people or less after previously capping them at 30. That specific restriction will remain in place despite the reduced threat. The school had identified two clusters of positive cases since school began, both of which were linked to gatherings that had not followed the published guidelines such as wearing face coverings and keeping six feet apart.

Students are still barred from traveling beyond the greater Ithaca area (save for extenuating circumstances), and no visitors are allowed on campus. Kotlikoff’s message also reminded students of the behavioral compact and the requirement to participate in the school’s daily check and surveillance testing programs.

“Though, as expected, we saw isolated COVID-19 clusters in the semester’s early going, our community has taken remarkable steps to keep everyone safe and healthy,” the message concluded, also thanking the school’s COVID-19 Peer Ambassadors. “In particular, we commend our student-athletes for – once these clusters were identified – cooperating in contact tracing efforts and effectively recommitting to required health and safety protocols for physical distancing and limiting gatherings, all of which are essential to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com