ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell University will now require all employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination by Dec. 8, according to an announcement from the school on Wednesday.

The university had already required any student taking on-campus classes to receive the vaccination to return for the Fall 2021 semester, though it did honor religious and medical exemptions, but had stopped short of requiring the same for staff and faculty—making the school fairly unique, though legal challenges against full staff vaccine mandates have been common in cases when those are introduced. According to Cornell, 91 percent of the school’s “other employees” are already vaccinated, compared to 99 percent of faculty and 99 percent of students.

The school’s message, signed by President Martha Pollack and other senior members of staff, indicates that the new expansion to all staff members is due to President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring vaccinations for federal contractors, issued a month ago.

“President Biden’s recent executive order, however, requires that all employees of certain contractors that do business with the federal government be vaccinated, unless exempt for medical or religious reasons,” the school stated. “The university has numerous federal contracts that are covered by the provisions in the executive order.”

Anyone who fails to get fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 or receive a medical/religious exemption will be “removed from our payroll,” according to the school. Pollack’s message also states that it is “not sufficient to have started the process by [Dec. 8],” indicating that employees must be considered “fully vaccinated” by that date. In order to be considered fully vaccinated, someone must be two weeks post their second shot for Moderna or Pfizer or two weeks post their single Johnson & Johnson dose. In essence, this means that employees must receive their last vaccination shot by Nov. 24, if calendars are to be trusted.

The school then offered a variety of ways to obtain a vaccination, through the CDC, the Tompkins County Health Department, and reminding employees that employees in New York may take four paid hours off from work to get vaccinated. Vaccination is free to all.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at