Public Health Update: Novel Coronavirus

Dear Ithaca Campus Community,

On Sunday, a Cornell student presented symptoms that met criteria for testing for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the only entity in the U.S. able to test for Novel Coronavirus, they are currently processing the laboratory tests and results could take a full week. The student, who does not reside on campus, is currently in isolation, safe and receiving ongoing care. At this time, there are no confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus in New York state.

Cornell is working in concert with the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) to monitor and support the health and safety of the individual and the broader community. A contact investigation is underway through TCHD. Anyone who has had close contact, as defined by the CDC, with the individual will be contacted by TCHD.

As Provost Kotlikoff noted in his message to campus last week, this is a challenging time for many of our community members. Cornell is an international community of scholars and we understand that many of you are worried not only about your own health and well-being, but also for that of your friends and family living abroad.

It is understandable to feel uncertain or anxious during a public health crisis, and we need to remember to care for one another and not make assumptions about others’ perceived symptoms or any characteristics of identity. This is a time for the Cornell community to support one another. Your compassion and empathy for each other makes a difference.

As the CDC continues to monitor this evolving public health issue, it is also important to acknowledge that it is also flu season in the U.S. Symptoms of Novel Coronavirus and influenza can be similar, including fever (above 100.4 F), along with cough and shortness of breath. If you have recently traveled to China, and have developed fever with respiratory symptoms within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone who is confirmed to have Novel Coronavirus, you should seek medical care immediately.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Novel Coronavirus. CDC recommends preventive actions to reduce the risk of developing influenza and other respiratory illnesses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

We will continue to monitor and update the community as this situation evolves. For additional information about the coronavirus and steps that Cornell is taking to protect the health and safety of our community, please visit the Cornell University novel coronavirus website.


Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student and Campus Life

Sharon McMullen
Assistant Vice President of Student and Campus Life for Health and Wellbeing