COVID-19 Update: Ithaca College Shifts to Orange Alert Operating Status

By News, December 15, 2021

Dear Campus Community,

I share this message with you today to provide a crucial update in the developing COVID-19 situation impacting our Ithaca College community. Since our last update on Wednesday, December 8, we have continued to monitor a trending uptick in positive COVID-19 cases within our campus community. Over the past 24 hours we have witnessed a notable spike in confirmed positive cases among our student population from our symptomatic testing site at Emerson Hall. As a result, Ithaca College is updating its COVID-19 operating status to Orange: Moderate Risk, effective immediately.

Shifting from Yellow: Low to Moderate Risk to Orange: Moderate Risk means that incidence of COVID-19 has increased substantially and is more widespread in our community. 

As was communicated in our original message, participation in unstructured off-campus gatherings was STRONGLY DISCOURAGED, especially during this time of increased risk. Through contact tracing measures and further analysis of the data available to us, Ithaca College has identified the primary source of this latest surge in positive cases among our student population as being from large unstructured off-campus social gatherings occurring during the weekend of December 10-12. In particular, many of the latest positive cases have been tied to the Santacon off-campus event held on Saturday, December 11. If you are a student who has attended Santacon or other large unstructured social gatherings during this timeframe, Ithaca College STRONGLY ENCOURAGES you to seek out a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. 

We continue to note that we have seen no indication of spread tied to the structured in-person academic experience and final exams occurring over the past week. Incidence of COVID-19 among faculty and staff remains minimal at this time, indicating that transmission is being mitigated in structured settings where good public health policies are being strictly followed.

Employees who are actively experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to seek out local resources for testing including urgent care facilities, pharmacies, or the Cayuga Health System mall testing site.

Ithaca College is also keenly monitoring the spread of the Omicron variant throughout the greater Tompkins County area. At this time, preliminary evidence has shown that this highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus has been present in a significant number of the positive test samples identified at Cornell University and we suspect that this variant has also played a contributing factor in the surge in cases among our Ithaca College students. Ithaca College continues to evaluate its positive cases to confirm evidence of the Omicron variant. 

Although there is much we still need to learn about the Omicron variant, it appears to be significantly more transmissible than Delta and other COVID-19 variants; however, symptoms have generally been considered milder, especially among vaccinated individuals. To date, positive cases identified at Ithaca College have been accompanied with generally mild symptoms and we continue to see no incidence of severe illness requiring hospitalization among our student population. 

Considering our proximity to the end of the semester and travel for the upcoming Winter Break, this alert status change was deemed necessary as part of our best efforts to prevent additional spread both within our campus community and the extended IC communities of our students and their families. 

Please keep reading for additional information on what this shift will mean for our campus community under the Orange operating status.

Final Exams
As mentioned above, risk of transmission in structured academic settings remains minimal. To not interfere with the student learning experience, final exams this evening will proceed as planned despite the update to Ithaca College’s operating status. 

Ithaca College STRONGLY ENCOURAGES all students planning to return to their permanent address for Winter Break to do so as soon as they have completed final exams and associated coursework. Students are encouraged to continue monitoring their health for potential symptoms, observe a voluntary quarantine upon their return to their permanent address, and seek out testing opportunities in their home area to confirm negative status.

Students currently experiencing active symptoms SHOULD seek out a COVID-19 test at Emerson Hall, open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., prior to engaging in any travel plans. Residential students who test positive will continue to receive support from Ithaca College regarding potential isolation and devising an approved travel and isolation plan should students seek a return to their permanent address to complete their mandatory isolation period. 

Travel by outside parties to the Ithaca College campus is NOT PERMITTED at this time, except for picking up students to leave for Winter Break

Social Gatherings
At this time, all social gatherings on campus will remain suspended until further notice. 

Ithaca College residence halls will close as scheduled at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 16. Residential students who have been approved to remain on campus during the Winter Break must remain in their designated room assignment. Visitation between residence communities and within individual rooms is NOT PERMITTED. Students should not move about the campus except for meal retrieval or solitary outdoor exercise. All common areas are CLOSEDuntil further notice.

Students who have made prior arrangements to depart late or remain in their campus apartment during Winter Break may still do so, but need to be aware that services will be extremely limited. We STRONGLY ENCOURAGE any such student who is able to leave over Winter Break to do so.

The change to Orange operating status does not impact on-campus work arrangements. Employees are encouraged to reach out to their supervisor regarding their work preference. We encourage supervisors to be flexible in considering alternate work arrangements during this time that few students are on campus.

Library/Fitness Center/Wellness Clinic
Shared on-campus spaces including the Library, Fitness Center and Wellness Clinic will be closed to all activities until further notice. 

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we continue to try to limit the impacts from this developing situation. We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide important and timely updates for the campus community on any potential impacts on the Spring 2022 semester as they become available.


Samm Swarts
Assistant Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response