Quarantine and Isolation (Updated 8/12/20)

Quarantine or Isolation

Quarantine is for students without symptoms of COVID-19. Its purpose is to keep individuals away from others while they self-monitor for the development of symptoms during COVID-19’s incubation period (14 days) and/or while they await test results. Quarantine applies to students under the following conditions: 

  • Asymptomatic students who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results.
  • Students identified through contact tracing as someone who has been in contact with a known COVID-19 case during which they are monitored for symptoms.
  • Students who enter New York State after having been in a state with a NYS travel advisory for more than 24 hours.

Isolation is used to separate people with COVID-19 from people who are not infected. Its purpose is to contain the spread of the virus while the individual recovers from their illness. Isolation applies to students under the following conditions:

  • Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Symptomatic students who have received diagnostic testing.

Quarantine for Off-Campus Students

All students, both new and returning, need to follow Cornell policies for arrival testing and may be subject to quarantine restrictions if they are traveling from abroad or one of the 34+ states on New York State’s (NYS) list. The NYS list of states changes weekly, usually on Tuesdays. Students who planned to travel to Ithaca but cannot fully quarantine should reconsider their plans and may need to stay at their current location and register for the fall term remotely. Some students may be able to quarantine outside the Ithaca area (with friends or relatives) elsewhere in NYS or in a state that is not on the NYS restricted list.

Students from outside the U.S. or from any of the 34+ states on NYS’ list must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.  They must also complete the NYS Traveler Health Form

Quarantine requirements are enforceable by up to a $2,000 fine and include:

  • Quarantined individuals must not be in public or otherwise leave the living quarters that have been identified as suitable for their quarantine. This includes stopping by a store after entering the state – students would need to proceed directly to their quarantine location and have food delivered.
  • Quarantine expectations require that there must be a separate living area with a separate bathroom facility for each individual or family group. Access to a sink with soap, water, and paper towels is necessary. Cleaning supplies (e.g. household cleaning wipes, bleach) must be provided in any shared bathroom.
  • There must be a way to self-quarantine from household members when fever or other symptoms develop; in a separate room(s) with a separate door. Given that an exposed person might become ill while sleeping, the exposed person must sleep in a separate bedroom from other household members.

Students who will be living on campus will receive detailed instructions from the Office of Student and Campus Life. They are assigned an arrival time and receive regular communication about the check-in procedure.

Also see Op-Ed: Shift in Quarantine Process Enhances Public Health.

Special Issues for Sharing Living Spaces with Roommates

Students who share their living spaces with others may face additional challenges. Even if the space does have separate bathroom facilities, housemates may feel they are being placed at greater risk. Some property managers have special move-in instructions or will offer additional supports.

If housemates have conflicts about safety, quarantine violations, or unsafe behavior related to COVID they are encouraged to first talk directly among the household members. 

Cornell has released a short video to offer guidance, and NYS has resources to report a complaint:

For more information, view Tompkins County’s social distancing webpage.

Isolation for Off Campus Ithaca Students

Isolation is used to separate people with COVID-19 from people who are not infected. Its purpose is to contain the spread of the virus while the individual recovers from their illness. Isolation applies to students under the following conditions:

  • Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Symptomatic students who have received diagnostic testing.

For students living in off-campus housing, Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) will coordinate care and assess whether students can self-isolate in their off-campus residence. If TCHD determines a student cannot self-isolate in current housing, they will work with Cornell Health staff to arrange for isolation housing. Students in isolation will receive daily checks by Cornell Health and will be provided with assistance acquiring food and supplies by staff in the Dean of Student’s Crisis Team as needed.

For students living in on campus students, Cornell will work with TCHD to find appropriate housing. Food will be delivered to the student, and Cornell Health will conduct daily health checks.