Cornell Health works with the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD), the Cornell COVID Concierge Team, and other Cornell departments and staff members to provide guidance and care for students in isolation and quarantine.
What is isolation?
Isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 (by antigen or PCR test). The purpose of isolation is to separate a person with COVID from others to contain the spread of the virus.
All students who test positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status or whether you experience symptoms. The length of time is typically 5 days from the onset of symptoms or test date, but may be longer if symptoms continue or you are immunocompromised.
Refer to "What to do if you test positive for COVID" on our COVID-19 Symptoms / Diagnosis page for more information about what to do if you get a positive test result. When you test positive for COVID (at Cornell, at a Cayuga Health testing site, or if you self-report a positive test result through the Daily Check), you will receive an email from Cornell with detailed isolation instructions.
Any member of the Cornell community diagnosed with COVID-19 must follow Tompkins County Health Department’s isolation procedures. The standard isolation period is five full days from test date or symptom onset, not including the day one tests positive or the first day of symptoms onset. Students and employees are expected to stay off campus for at least five days.
- Students living in university housing (dorms or university-managed houses) are required to isolate off-campus in university-provided housing. Cornell will provide students with transportation, a hotel room, and meals for their required isolation period. All students living in university housing will be required to move to isolation housing, regardless of whether they live in a single, double or triple.
- Students living in non-university housing off-campus will not automatically be moved to isolation housing, however the university will support them upon request. Depending on a student’s particular housing situation and/or underlying health conditions, the university may strongly urge students to move to university-provided hotel room for the duration of their isolation (food and transportation will be provided). In such cases, students are expected to comply.
- Students diagnosed with COVID-19 and who have an underlying health condition should ask for isolation support: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 607-254-5600.
- Students diagnosed with COVID-19 and who live in dense shared living environments (shared bedrooms, many residents) should ask for isolation support: email email@example.com or call 607-254-5600.
- Depending on a student’s particular housing situation and/or underlying health conditions, the university may strongly urge students to move to university-provided hotel room for the duration of their isolation (food and transportation will be provided). In such cases, students are expected to comply.
- Cornell University strongly discourages students from isolating in non-University-provided hotels, and costs incurred from doing so will not be reimbursed. University-provided hotels undergo a COVID-specific deep cleaning between guests to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 to hotel staff and future guests.
Quarantine is for individuals who have not tested positive for COVID-19. The purpose of quarantine is to separate a healthy person from others while they are monitored for the possible development of COVID.
If you believe you have been exposed to COVID, or have been identified as a "close contact" of someone who has tested positive ...
- Fully vaccinated and boosted students (and those not yet eligible for a booster) do NOT need to quarantine unless they have symptoms. Students should wear a mask around others for 10 days after the last day of exposure, and get a COVID test on day 5.
- Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students should quarantine at home for 5 days from last exposure, get a COVID test on day 5, and wear a well-fitting mask for 5 additional days.
Where do students quarantine?
Students who are required to quarantine (see above) are expected to do so in their residence, following the quarantine guidance from the TCHD.
What do I do if I test positive for COVID-19?
All students who test positive for COVID-19 – by antigen or PCR test – are required self-isolate following the isolation guidance from the TCHD, regardless of vaccination status or whether you experience symptoms. The length of time is typically 5 days from the onset of symptoms or test date, but may be longer if symptoms continue or you are immunocompromised. You should also notify close contacts that they may have been exposed, should monitor themselves for symptoms, and follow the quarantine guidance above.
> See our COVID-19 Symptoms / Diagnosis page
What do I do if I have symptoms – or have been exposed – to COVID-19?
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should limit your contact with others: do not go to classes, avoid public areas, and wear a mask.
Pick up a symptomatic test kit as soon as possible at one of Cornell's pick-up locations, and self-administer the test(s) following the instructions found on Cornell's Symptomatic Testing page. (If your symptoms are severe or worrying, call Cornell Health for consultation: 607-255-5155.)
If you believe you were exposed to COVID, follow the quarantine guidance above while you self-monitor for symptoms.
> See our COVID-19 Symptoms / Diagnosis page
How do I monitor my health while in isolation / quarantine?
It is important to take your temperature daily and closely monitor your health.
- COVID-positive students in isolation who develop concerning symptoms should call Cornell Health 24/7 at 607-255-5155.
- Students in quarantine develop symptoms should pick up a symptomatic test kit as soon as possible at one of Cornell's pick-up locations, and self-administer the test(s) following the instructions found on Cornell's Symptomatic Testing page. (If your symptoms are severe or worrying, call Cornell Health for consultation: 607-255-5155.)
How do I let my professors know I'm in isolation / quarantine and can’t go to classes?
If you are in quarantine and/or waiting for test results, inform your professor that you can't attend classes until you get your results (results are typically available within 36 hours).
If you test positive and are in isolation, included along with your isolation email will be information from Student Disability Services you can send to professors to let them know you will not be able to participate in in-person learning for 5 days. The message also notifies instructors that students may need flexibility in attendance and alternative arrangements for assignments and/or exams.
While most people are in isolation for five full days, students whose symptoms are not improving by the end of the fifth day may need to remain in isolation a few days longer and should contact Cornell’s COVID-19 Concierge at 607-254-5600 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss extending their isolation period.
How do I take care of my mental health while in isolation / quarantine?
- Visit our Coping During COVID-19 page for ways to stay connected and support your well-being.
- Call Cornell Health 24/7 (607-255-5155) to speak with a licensed therapist from our on-call service.
- Consult informally with a CAPS counselor through Let’s Talk.
- Connect with someone now through one of these recommended hotlines or textlines, including options especially for students of color and LGBTQ students.
- Find additional resources for support at Mental Health at Cornell.