Returning to Campus: COVID-19 Testing, Quarantine, & Isolation

Please refer to Cornell’s COVID-19 website as the main source of information for campus-wide updates and resources, particularly their Move-In Information.

The following information is intended to complement that resource with more detail about Cornell Health's offerings.

Last updated: August 10, 2020

COVID-19 Testing

Cornell will be providing three types of COVID-19 testing this fall. Cornell's mandatory arrival testing (#1) and surveillance testing (#2) is provided through a partnership with Cayuga Health System, with oversight from the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Integration. Diagnostic testing (#3) for students with COVID-19 symptoms/exposure is conducted at Cornell Health

(1) Arrival testing (in collaboration with Cayuga Health System)

All students who reside in or are returning to the Ithaca campus are required to participate in arrival testing at the Fischell Band Center, provided by Cayuga Health. There is no charge for arrival testing, and it is not necessary to bring your insurance card.

Students living in university housing do not need to schedule an arrival test as this will be included in your move-in schedule. Refer to Cornell's Move-In Information for details.

Students living off campus should schedule their arrival test through the Re-entry Checklist for the first available date after arrival in Ithaca. (Students self-quarantining in Ithaca for 14 days are permitted to "break quarantine" only to get tested; see details below.)

Students are expected to self-quarantine while they wait for their test results (results are available in approximately 24 hours):

  • Students who test negative – who are not self-quarantining for 14 days – may end their quarantine. 
  • Students who test negative – who are self-quarantining for 14 days in Ithaca – must complete their 14-day quarantine (see more quarantine information below).
  • If a student tests positive – they will be placed in isolation housing, with support from Cornell and the Tompkins County Health Department (see more isolation information below).

(2) Ongoing surveillance testing (in collaboration with Cayuga Health System)

Students will be tested periodically through the fall semester. The frequency of testing is still being determined. There will be no charge for surveillance testing. More information will be available soon on Cornell’s COVID-19 website

(3) Diagnostic testing for students with symptoms or known exposure (at Cornell Health)

Cornell Health continues to provide COVID-19 testing for students who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, have had known exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or who meet other diagnostic criteria.

Students can call us at 607-255-5155 during business hours to consult with a provider and be pre-screened for testing. There is no out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic testing (testing costs are submitted to insurance and currently reimbursed at 100%). 

Quarantine information

Self-quarantining for 14 days upon arrival to New York State is required for:

Please note that a negative arrival test does not shorten your required 14-day quarantine. 

Self-quarantining for approximately 24 hours is required for: 

  • Asymptomatic students from non-travel-advisory locations who are waiting for their arrival test results 

Quarantine housing: Please refer to Cornell's Move-In Information for the most current details about quarantine housing. If you have questions about self-quarantining on campus, please email

Tips for students self-quarantining off-campus: Students who plan to self-quarantine in their off-campus residence or in a hotel for 14 days should return to the Ithaca area around August 17 to ensure enough time to complete quarantine before classes begin on September 2. Students should arrange to have food and supplies delivered as needed (the Off-Campus Housing office can provide a list of delivery resources for those staying in Ithaca). Students with roommates should be diligent in practicing physical distancing, wearing masks in shared spaces, washing hands often, and sanitizing shared areas.

Arrival testing for students self-quarantining off-campus: Students living off campus should schedule their arrival test for as soon as possible after they arrive in Ithaca. Students are permitted to “break quarantine” only to complete their testing, and should follow these guidelines: 

  • walk or drive alone to the testing site (avoiding the use of public or shared transportation) 
  • wear a face covering and maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times 
  • have the arrival test performed, and then return immediately to quarantine
  • Note: receiving a negative test result does not shorten your 14-day quarantine 

> Visit our Quarantine for COVID-19 page for more details

Isolation information

Isolation is appropriate for:

  • Students who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (typically for 14 days)  
  • Symptomatic students who have been tested for COVID-19, until they receive a negative result

Students living in university housing will be provided with isolation housing and meals. 

Students living off campus will be assessed by the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) to determine whether they can self-isolate in their off-campus residence. If a student can’t self-isolate where they are, the TCHD will work with Cornell Health staff to arrange appropriate isolation housing and meals.

All students in isolation will be contacted each day by a Cornell Health nurse who will monitor their symptoms, provide consultation and care management by phone, and work with the local hospital in case additional medical care is needed.

> Visit our Isolation for COVID-19 page for more details


If you have questions that are not addressed above, please use the following contact information: