Three questions: Is it possible to have a question box for COVID-19 concerns? Why can’t we schedule surveillance tests in advance? Does sharing a house constitute close contact with others?

Date: September 2020

Question

Hi Deans,

Is it possible to have a comments/questions box for COVID-19 related concerns – something similar to the anonymous reporting page that is on covid.cornell.edu but more for quick questions that students can raise to the administration?

Unrelated, but I have two specific questions that I’m seeking the answers to:

  1. Is there a reason why we can’t schedule the surveillance test the day before (or earlier)? For organization purposes, I like to know what my next day looks like and not have to worry about scheduling this test right after I wake up and figuring out how it will fit into my day. If we’re worried that people might forget, maybe we can have people confirm on the day of when they are doing their daily check that they will show up?
  2. To what degree does sharing a house with people constitute as close contact with people? For example, if a housemate has COVID symptoms but they have their own room and I don’t interact with them, do I report on Daily Check that I was in close contact with a person displaying COVID symptoms?

Thank you,

COVID Questioning


Response

Dear COVID Questioning,

Thank you for your Ask a Dean questions. All of these issues are outside the purview of the Graduate School, but I’ll share with you what I know about these topics.

Currently, all teams who are working on COVID-19-related issues are extremely busy, developing and refining systems (e.g., Daily Check, Surveillance Testing, Adaptive Testing) and responding to urgent questions and issues that arise. I encourage you to make use of the existing information and existing inquiry/email addresses to find answers to your questions as they arise. There are a number of FAQ sections on the COVID-19 websites, including for the Daily Check and Surveillance Testing. The FAQ includes contact information (an email address) where you can send questions about the Daily Check. Information for Students includes comprehensive coverage of the behavioral compact, housing and dining, student health, etc., with a list of email addresses to contact regarding questions on various topics (e.g., dining, surveillance testing, student activities, etc.). I encourage you to use the existing avenues for keeping informed, and the suggested email addresses for the various topics on which you might have comments. Those are already staffed and monitored regularly, and will reach the appropriate offices with relevant expertise.

Regarding your question about surveillance testing scheduling, it has been suggested to the COVID testing team that being able to schedule the surveillance test farther in advance than the day before could be helpful. Given various staffing and technology constraints, and given this is still a new system and kinks are being worked out in real time given the short timeframe in which the pandemic has unfolded, enabling advanced scheduling has not been feasible thus far. In addition, when advanced scheduling was made available for Arrival Testing, the unfortunate reality was that individual students would schedule multiple times for their Arrival Test, using up system capacity, and then not removing the dates they would not use. The new COVID-19 testing lab on campus has done a remarkable job of establishing itself and ramping up fast in a very short time period to be able to handle more than 5,000 tests a day.

Close contact with others for contact tracing purposes is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for at least 10 minutes beginning two days before either illness onset or the date of testing for those without symptoms. Use that guidelines to report close contacts. (This definition appears in the Daily Check form, as an asterisk/footnote to the question about close contacts.) In addition to regular contact tracing, Cornell is proactively identifying cases across campus through Adaptive Testing that tests everyone in the social circles of people infected with the virus, not just those meeting the definition of close contacts. If a housemate is diagnosed with COVID-19 symptoms, expect that you will be asked to participate in Adaptive Testing. If a student housemate is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and has not been recently tested, encourage them to be Tested for Cause by calling Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 for an immediate appointment. 

Stay well,

Barb

Barbara A. Knuth
Dean of the Graduate School