Isolation for COVID-19

The purpose of isolation is to separate a person with COVID-19 from others to contain the spread of the virus while the individual recovers from their illness. 

Reasons for isolation

Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be directed to isolate, regardless of vaccination status or whether the student experiences symptoms. The length of time is determined by the Tompkins County Health Department, but is typically 10 days from the onset of symptoms or test date.

The Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) manages all positive COVID-19 cases in the county, including assessing isolation housing needs and conducting contact tracing. The TCHD takes multiple factors into consideration when determining length of isolation; factors may include length of time after symptom onset and resolution, as well as exposure.

Cornell Health works closely with the TCHD and provides support for students in isolation. 

Students living in university housing will be provided with isolation housing and meals. See more detail below.

Students living off campus will be assessed by the 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 for isolation housing. See more detail below.

Students should NOT leave Ithaca to self-isolate elsewhere.

Isolating in university-provided housing

If you are in isolation in university housing or in a nearby hotel ...

  • Stay in your room/apartment until instructed by your health care provider. The length of isolation periods vary, and the decision to discontinue home isolation is made on a case-by-case basis.
  • You may not have friends or family with you in your isolation room or apartment, unless they have been approved by your health care provider.
  • You will be provided meals by the university.
  • You should bring any clothes, toiletries, and medication you need, in addition to a thermometer.  
  • If you need assistance, support, or supplies, please contact your Crisis Manager by calling the Cornell Police at 607-255-1111.
  • A Cornell Health nurse will contact you each day to check on you while you are in isolation (see more about monitoring your health, below).

See our FAQs for students in university-provided isolation housing

Isolating in your off-campus residence

If you are in isolation in your residence off campus ...

  • Stay at home until instructed by your health care provider. The length of isolation periods vary, and the decision to discontinue home isolation is made on a case-by-case basis.
  • If you live with others, stay in a specific “sick room” or area and away from other people or pets. If possible, use a separate bathroom. If you need to use shared spaces, be sure to use them when no other people are present, and wear a face covering, wash hands well, and disinfect shared surfaces. 
  • Ask friends or family members to drop off food and supplies, or order food and supplies for delivery.
  • Students in Ithaca who need assistance acquiring food and supplies, or need other support, can call the Cornell Police (607-255-1111) to be connected with a university Crisis Manger.
  • A Cornell Health nurse will contact you each day to check on you while you are in isolation (see more about monitoring your health, below).

Monitoring your health in isolation

Students in isolation will be contacted each day by a Cornell Health nurse, who will monitor your symptoms and temperature and provide consultation and care management by phone or online secure message. Cornell Health works closely with the local hospital, Cayuga Medical Center, to identify conditions that might require hospitalization. Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 are also contacted daily by a TCHD nurse to monitor your recovery. 

To prepare for your daily check-in(s), please take your temperature twice a day and record your temperature and symptoms so staff can review them with you each day. Please answer your phone or circle back to us promptly with a phone call or a secure message via myCornellHealth

If you have questions or concerns about symptoms before your check-in, you may call Cornell Health at 607-255-5155 during business hours and press #1 to speak with a nurse. After hours, you may call the same number and consult with a medical provider from our on-call service.

If you develop any life-threatening symptoms – including trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips of face – call 911 immediately.

Sharing your health information with others

Your personal health information is confidential. You will need to sign a release before our staff will be able to speak with your Crisis Manager, your parents, or other family members or friends. (Note: your verbal permission may be accepted under some circumstances.)

About contact tracing

If you test positive for COVID-19 and are asked to identify people with whom you have recently interacted, your honesty is crucial to helping control the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The information you provide will not be used to penalize any student for their behavior.  

Caring for your mental health