Quarantine & Isolation FAQs

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.  

Frequently asked questions

What circumstances would require a student to quarantine?

The purpose of quarantine is to separate a healthy person from others while they are monitored for the possible development of COVID-19.

Unvaccinated students are directed to quarantine if they are identified as a "close contact" of someone who has COVID-19. The length of time is typically 10 days from exposure. 

Fully vaccinated students do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone with COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, and should wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative.

Learn more on our Quarantine page.

What circumstances would require a student to be in isolation?

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

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. 
Learn more on our Isolation page.

Where do students quarantine or isolate?

Students who live in university housing will be provided with private quarantine / isolation housing and meals (students may not quarantine / isolate in their residence hall rooms).

Students who live off campus may be directed to quarantine / isolate in their own residence, if the contact tracer determines they can do so safely according to the guidelines set by Tompkins County Health Department. If not, off-campus students will be provided with private quarantine housing and meals. 

See the Q&A below for students in university-provided quarantine / isolation housing.

What care do students receive in quarantine or isolation?

Students are contacted daily by a Cornell Health nurse who monitors their symptoms and provides consultation and care management by phone or online secure message. Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 are also contacted daily by a TCHD nurse to monitor their recovery. 
Students in university-provided quarantine / isolation housing are provided with meals. Please see details below. 

For students in university-provided quarantine / isolation housing

    Why am I being placed in quarantine / isolation housing?

    Students are placed in university-provided housing when the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) determines that they cannot safely quarantine or isolate where they are currently living (for example, due to potentially exposing others in a shared living space). Having students in a centralized location also helps Cornell and Cornell Health staff provide efficient support to meet students’ needs.

    How long will I be in quarantine / isolation?

    The length of your quarantine or isolation period is determined by the TCHD, and is unique to your situation. The typical length of time is 10 days, but other factors may be taken into account such as length of time after symptom onset and resolution, as well as exposure. 

    Even if you have received a negative COVID test, you may be directed to stay in quarantine / isolation housing for 10 days because it can take up to 10 days after exposure to the virus for a person to develop COVID-19 symptoms (learn more about New York State's 10-day quarantine guidelines). A negative test result before end of the 10-day quarantine period does not rule out possible infection. 

    If you are unsure of the release date given to you by the TCHD, please call them at 607-274-6600.

    Where will I be placed?

    Currently, Cornell is using Balch Hall on north campus for students in quarantine / isolation housing. Nearby hotels may be used for additional housing, if needed. Students do not share living spaces during their quarantine / isolation period.

    Can I leave my room at all?

    You are expected to remain in your assigned living quarters throughout the length of your quarantine / isolation period, unless you have been approved by a medical provider to temporarily leave (for example, to get tested for COVID-19, or to attend a related medical appointment). Students in quarantine / isolation are exempt from participating in Cornell’s COVID-19 surveillance (see more details below). 

    How and when do I check in and out of to my housing? 

    CHECK-IN: Cornell Health staff will provide you with your location and card access / key for entry. Cornell Health can arrange for transportation if needed.

    CHECK-OUT: Once our medical team and the TCHD have cleared you for release, you will be notified of check-out procedures. You should not move out until you have received this information.

    What should I pack?

    Visit our list of suggestions for what to pack.

    How do I get meals, or have food delivered?

    Students in Balch Hall are provided with funds on their City Bucks account to purchase meals for delivery through Ithaca-to-Go or from Papa John's Pizza. Please follow the instructions provided to you upon move-in to make City Bucks purchases and coordinate with building staff to have deliveries dropped off at your room.

    Student in hotels are provided with breakfast and order additional meals through the hotel's front desk. 

    If I need pharmacy items (like prescription or over-the-counter medications), how do I get these?

    The Cornell Health pharmacy will deliver necessary medications and pharmacy supplies to your location. Call the pharmacy at 607-255-6976, or log in to myCornellHealth to send a message to the pharmacy with your request. 

    Can I do laundry?

    Laundry services are not available to students in university-provided quarantine / isolation housing due to infection control. Students should pack enough clothing for the duration of their quarantine / isolation period.

    How do I monitor my health while in quarantine / isolation?

    You will be contacted via a daily survey by a Cornell Health nurse who will monitor your symptoms and temperature and provide consultation and care management by phone or online secure message. 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.

    See more details about monitoring your symptoms on our Quarantine page and Isolation page.

    Will I have to participate in surveillance testing?

    Students in quarantine / isolation are exempt from participating in the university's mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing for the duration of their quarantine / isolation period (however, please note that some students may be directed by a health care provider to receive diagnostic testing at Cornell Health).

    While in quarantine / isolation, you should not receive reminders in your Daily Check to schedule a surveillance test. If you receive a Daily Check reminder to schedule your surveillance test, please email us at cornellhealth@cornell.edu.

    If you are in isolation due to a positive COVID-19 test, you are exempt from surveillance testing for 90 days after your release from isolation.

    I’m in quarantine and want to be tested for COVID-19. When/how does that happen?

    Cornell Health staff can arrange for COVID testing at Cornell Health. Nursing staff can help schedule students for a test when setting them up for quarantine. 

    How do my professors know that I am in quarantine / isolation and can’t go to classes?

    If you would like an accommodation letter sent to your instructor(s), please contact Student Disability Services

    How can I take care of my mental health while in quarantine / isolation?

    Can I leave Ithaca to complete mandatory quarantine?

    We recommend you stay in Ithaca and follow the guidance of TCHD. However, leaving is possible as long as it is requested through Cornell's isolation / quarantine nursing team and meets each of the following criteria:

    • The location of mandatory quarantine must be approved by Cornell Health and TCHD. Locations need to have a private bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen/individual food delivery.
    • You need to identify a COVID testing location and urgent care center that is close to your quarantine location and ensure you have easy access to testing and in-person healthcare if you develop symptoms.
    • Students can call Cornell Health for questions, and we can help advise them, or perform telehealth visits during our operating hours. Of note, Cornell Health can only provide telehealth to individuals within NY State.
    • Report of a final address and destination needs to be coordinated with the TCHD, so that the Local Health Department in your quarantine / isolation location is aware of your location and status.
    • Transportation must be completed via private vehicle – no travel plans involves public transportation will be approved.
    • Students are not required to produce a negative test prior to release of mandatory quarantine outside of Ithaca/Tompkins County, however we strongly recommend testing prior to campus return.
    • Any student wishing to quarantine outside of the Ithaca/Cornell system should be aware that, if they test positive, they will be required to stay in Ithaca.

    Can I leave Ithaca to complete mandatory isolation?

    No. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be directed by the TCHD to go immediately to their Ithaca residence, or move to university-provided isolation housing, and should not leave Ithaca.