Cornell Says Bringing Students Back to Campus Reduces Virus Risk
(Bloomberg) -- Cornell University plans to resume classes in September with a mix of in-person and online instruction, as researchers found that being on campus would reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19.
Modeling by a Cornell team determined that two to 10 times more people could be infected with Covid-19 during a semester conducted entirely online, with significantly higher numbers becoming seriously ill, the Ithaca, New York-based school said in a statement Tuesday.
That’s because surveys showed that a large percentage of Cornell students planned to return to off-campus housing in Ithaca even if all instruction was conducted remotely, according to research led by Peter Frazier, associate professor in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering. In that case, Cornell would have had no authority to mandate testing or restrict students’ behavior.
The divergent paths among announcements highlight the confusion gripping U.S. universities at a time when infections are increasing across the country and there’s little clarity on how things will look in a few months’ time. Colleges, already battered by refunds and expected falling enrollments, are trying to balance public health needs with students’ wishes to experience a normal routine. Cornell’s finding about lower transmissions with some in-person teaching could provide a map for other schools.
With Cornell’s reopening plans, students living on or off campus will now be subject to agreements to follow public health guidelines and an “absolute requirement” to comply with a testing program, Cornell President Martha Pollack said in the statement.
Classes at Cornell will start Sept. 2, according to a modified academic calendar that will have most students return home before Thanksgiving break in November.
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