Ithaca College has moved to a Yellow: Low to Moderate Risk COVID-19 operational status following a rise in COVID-19 cases.
In a Dec. 8 email to the campus community, Samm Swarts, assistant director for Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the college is updating its COVID-19 operational status from Green: Lower Risk to Yellow: Low to Moderate Risk, effective immediately. According to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are 28 active student cases — 20 on–campus students and eight off–campus students — and six active employee cases.
In a Dec. 3 email to the campus community, Swarts said the college has seen an increase on COVID-19 cases since students returned from Thanksgiving Break on Nov. 19. Swarts said this increase on campus correlates to the increase of cases in Tompkins County. The county reported 37 new positives Dec. 8, 48 new positives Dec. 7, 24 new positives Dec. 6, 102 positives Dec. 5, 62 new positive cases Dec. 3, 61 positives Dec. 2, 40 positives Dec. 1, 46 positives Nov. 30 and 14 positives Nov. 29.
“Shifting to the Yellow: Low to Moderate Risk operational status means that while incidence of the virus remains low, indicators show that mitigation efforts related to certain activities are necessary to control additional spread,” the Dec. 8 email stated.
The email stated that the decision to shift was made in order to prioritize finishing the academic portion of the semester and hosting the December Commencement. The email also stated that there is no evidence that the increase in cases is the result of the new variant, Omicron, of which 12 cases have been discovered in the state of New York, according to NBC New York. In Oneida County — which is 60 miles away from Ithaca — two cases were discovered, indicating that the variant has spread through the state outside of New York City. The two cases discovered in Oneida County were two vaccinated individuals over the age of 60.
On Campus Changes
The shift does not impact the final exam schedule or other in-person academic gatherings, but all scheduled in-person gatherings and events on campus that are not associated with academic coursework are canceled — including club and organization meetings and non-academic programming.
The Ithaca College Library, Fitness Center, and Wellness Clinic will remain open for their scheduled operating hours through Dec. 17. The email stated that intercollegiate athletics will be allowed to continue with athletic competition, subject to sports medicine’s guidelines.
The email strongly discouraged residential students from unnecessary visitation between residence hall buildings and off-campus students from hosting social gatherings with individuals who do not live in their residence.
The email also discouraged campus community members from traveling outside of the Tompkins County area until the end of the fall semester.
“We recommend that students who are not experiencing active symptoms of COVID-19 and plan to return to their permanent residence for Winter Break should do so immediately following the completion of their final exams,” the email stated.
Visitors and guests, unless planning to attend the December Commencement or a pre-registered campus tour, should refrain from coming to campus, the email stated.
The email stated that the December 2021 Commencement will proceed as originally scheduled Dec. 12. All campus community attendees should complete their Daily Health Screening the morning prior to the event. Families and supporters of students will be able to attend the ceremony, but will be required to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status and maintain physical distance from others outside of their household at all times.
“Ithaca College also strongly encourages that anyone attending the event be fully vaccinated for COVID-19,” the email stated. “The college asks that anyone currently experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19 refrain from traveling to campus for this event.”
There will be a livestream of the ceremony available for family members and supporters who are unable to travel to Ithaca, the email stated.
All members of the campus community received an email Dec. 6, encouraging them to participate in surveillance testing.
Asymptomatic faculty, staff and students are encouraged to participate in regular surveillance testing by dropping off a saliva sample at the Campus Center Lobby, A&E Center Lobby and Peggy Ryan Williams Garden Level. Employees can submit a sample at Farm Pond Road. Submissions should only be made on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday in conjunction with sample pickup times.
The email strongly encouraged any students actively experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to limit their interactions with others and plan to get tested. The Emerson Hall testing site is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. seven days a week and is the primary location for students to be tested if they are experiencing symptoms.
Employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to seek out local resources for testing including urgent care facilities, pharmacies or the Cayuga Health System mall testing site.
“Please continue practicing proper use of face coverings (covering both the nose and mouth), frequent hand hygiene, physical distancing whenever possible and limiting your exposure to large unstructured gatherings where good public health measures are not typically followed,” Swarts stated in the email. “Being responsible in our actions and interactions, both on and off campus, will be essential in our efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 as we head into the Winter Break.”