Spring 2021 Guide and COVID-19 information

Health and safety

Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, these simple measures apply both on and off-campus:

  • Wear face coverings (masks)
  • Wash your hands
  • Maintain 6 feet of physical distancing
  • Participate in testing and contact tracing
  • Complete daily screenings
  • Comply with quarantine and isolation protocols if exposed
  • Do not host or attend social gatherings that violate room occupancy guidelines or are larger than 10 people
  • Be mindful of your surroundings and the impact we have

Any of us alone can spread this disease and cause harm to others. But all of us together can build a community that is safe and healthy, where educational success is possible.

Enforcement of the policies aimed at protecting the health of the community is uniform across the 64 SUNY campuses and include strict disciplinary actions — including loss of campus access, suspension or even permanent dismissal. We sincerely hope none of our students face these sanctions and instead act responsibly to halt the spread of a potentially fatal virus to their friends, family, classmates and the surrounding community.

The plans listed below are subject to change and may be revised as new information becomes available.

Required and recommended health and safety behaviors


Close contact
For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick until the time the patient was isolated.
Face covering
A cloth mask or other covering that is worn over an individual’s mouth and nose and secured over the ears or at the back of the head. These include homemade or commercially manufactured coverings that are washable as well as commercially manufactured disposable masks. They are worn by a person to prevent community spread from an asymptomatic person.
Isolation is reserved for individuals who test positive for COVID-19. The goal is to keep a person who is sick, or who is asymptomatic but is capable of spreading the virus, from infecting others.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Equipment worn by people to protect themselves from present or potential hazards. These include medical-grade surgical masks, N95 respirators, gloves and other equipment.
Physical distancing
The practice of maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between individuals not of the same household. Roommates will be considered members of the same household.
Self-quarantine is requested by the Health Department when an individual undergoes testing and is awaiting the result. This pertains to individuals even if there are no symptoms or other specific identified risk factors such as close contact or travel. The goal of the self-quarantine is to reduce or eliminate the possibility of transmission of the infection to others while you await test results. This means that during this time you should refrain from leaving your residence except for essential reasons. Furthermore, at all times you should at the minimum, avoid close contact (6ft) with anyone for a time period of 10 minutes or longer.
Quarantine is a precautionary measure required by the New York State Health Department when an individual has potentially been exposed to the novel coronavirus, such as having had close contact of an infected individual. Although the person asked to quarantine may not be infected, the 14-day quarantine period is used to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. The state health department has the authority to mandate quarantine when an individual is identified as a close contact of someone infectious with COVID-19 or have arrived from another country or from a state on New York’s COVID-19 watch list.

Daily screening

Face coverings

  • A face covering is a fabric mask that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties, straps, ear loops or simply wrapped around the lower face. Face coverings should NOT have ventilation ports.
  • Face coverings must be worn by all members of the campus community on campus at all times, including in classrooms, conference rooms and other spaces, even when 6 feet of social distancing exists. Exceptions to mask wearing include when students are:
  • In their private residential or personal space;
  • Eating meals on-campus while seated and social distancing is appropriately enforced; or
  • By themselves.
  • Face shields are not considered a routine alternative to a face covering or mask; however, the Cortland County Health Department has determined that a face shield may be appropriate in certain circumstances related to COVID-19.
  • Face coverings should:
    • Be disposed (single use) or washed (reusable) after one day of use or more often if they become soiled or damaged.
    • Fit snugly but comfortably against the face.
    • Cover both the nose and mouth, with the bottom edge under the chin.
  • Face coverings may be removed when alone in a personal space (such as an office or residence hall room) or outdoors, but keep a covering on hand and ready to put on.
  • Face covering protocols should be maintained off campus as well.
  • Any request for a medical, religious, or other accommodation to this policy should be reviewed on an individual basis in accordance with relevant laws and campus procedures.

Face coverings and masks requirements (PDF)

Physical distancing

  • Through policies and procedures, SUNY Cortland will ensure that a distance of 6 feet is maintained between persons unless safety or a core function of the work activity requires a shorter distance.
  • Tightly confined spaces will be occupied only by one individual at a time unless all occupants are wearing face coverings. If occupied by more than one person, the campus will keep occupancy under 50% of maximum capacity of public spaces (excludes residence and dining halls).
  • In-person gatherings will be limited as much as possible and teleconferencing will be used whenever practical. Essential in-person meetings will be held in open, well-ventilated spaces with appropriate physical distancing among participants.
  • Departments and offices will establish and denote contactless or limited contact pick up and drop off areas.
  • Workspaces will be set up to achieve physical distancing. In some cases, plexiglass barriers will be installed.
  • Engagement with campus visitors will be managed through a series of barriers and ground markings to direct traffic flow in commonly congested communal areas.
  • Maintenance, operations and custodial office staff will work in staggered shifts and take breaks to achieve separation.
  • Critical staff may be completely isolated from other members of the campus community. Where necessary, cross-training of critical/non-critical staff will occur.
  • Seating capacity of all classrooms has been reduced and furniture will be placed so proper physical distancing protocols are followed and designated room capacities are not exceeded.
  • Physical distancing measures will be enacted in dining and residence halls.

Personal hygiene

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers have been provided in key high-traffic locations throughout the campus.
  • Restrooms will be outfitted with signage providing guidance on hand washing.
  • When coughing or sneezing, individuals should cover their mouth or nose with a tissue or use the inside of their elbow.
  • Used tissues must be disposed of immediately.

Mental and emotional well-being

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, individuals can take the following steps to manage stress and anxiety levels:

  • Manage information flow by choosing reliable sources and establish boundaries on checking for updates.
  • Practice good self-care by exercising, eating healthy foods, practicing mindfulness, sleeping enough at night and going outside when permittable
  • Seek peer support to stay connected.
  • Facilitate ways to maintain social connections: personal, family and friends. This might include technological assistance or coordinating times with others to physically check in on vulnerable individuals.
  • The Counseling Center and Employee Assistance Program are available to offer emotional support and resources during this stressful period.
    • Counseling Center appointments will be offered via telemental health to assure safety while providing mask-less counseling.
    • In addition to current students, counselors also can provide consultations and outreach to families, staff and the community as needed.
    • Up-to-date information on accessing services and resources will be posted regularly on the Counseling Center website.


Social gatherings are the biggest source of COVID-19 infections.

  • The suspension of any in-person activities for fraternities and sororities remains in place.
  • Limit ALL social gatherings — indoors or outdoors — to no more than 10 people.
  • Gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people by New York state executive order. Violations are subject to fines up to $1,000.

Vulnerable populations

  • Everyone who is exposed to SARS-CoV-2 is at risk of becoming infected.
  • COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning which people are at higher risk of suffering the serious manifestations of infection that may include hospitalization, breathing problems, intensive care and even death.
  • Older adults have been shown to be at higher risk of serious illness should they become infected. The risk is progressive as age increases.
  • According to the most recent CDC update, people of any age with the following medical conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness if they acquire COVID-19:
    • Cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD)
    • Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplantation
    • Obesity with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more
    • Serious heart disease (e.g. coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy)
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Type II diabetes mellitus
  • Limited but evolving data suggests that additional medical conditions also increase the risk of serious illness in affected individuals. Currently, the CDC has identified the following medical conditions as posing additional risk:
    • Moderate to severe asthma
    • Cerebrovascular disease
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Conditions that impair the immune system including blood or bone marrow transplants, immune deficiencies, HIV infection
    • Medications that impair the immune system
    • Type I diabetes
    • Smoking
    • Neurologic diseases
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Liver disease
    • Pregnancy
    • Thalassemia (an inherited disorder of red blood cells)
  • The Disability Resources Office and associate deans have developed protocols for accommodating students in at-risk categories.
    • Students who may require all online courses because of a disability or because they are in a high-risk group associated with COVID-19, should contact their associate dean.
  • For students in vulnerable populations, Student Health Service and offices such as Advisement and Transition, The Learning Center, The Writing Center, Career Services, and Conley Counseling and Wellness Services are available remotely in addition to their in-person services.
  • Special housing considerations for students who are immunocompromised or who have an underlying health condition will work directly with the Disability Resources Office to ensure any required accommodations are provided.


  • All New Yorkers age 16 and older — including those from out-of-state who study at SUNY Cortland — are eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. New Yorkers 18 and older are eligible for the Johnson & Johnson Janssen and Moderna vaccine.
  • Information on how to sign up and find a provider is available on the New York State Department of Health's website.
  • Vaccination clinics for the general community are offered at SUNY Cortland’s Park Center Alumni Arena by the Cortland County Health Department as doses become available. Please check the county health department website for more information.
  • There are many reasons to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an exhaustive document on the CDC website. You should know that the vaccine has shown to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19, is a safer way to build natural immunity and is an important tool in helping to stop the pandemic.
  • FDA fact sheets for each of the three available vaccines are available online:
  • Students who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 are eligible for vaccination as soon as they complete isolation.
  • After vaccination, SUNY Cortland has several expectations:
    • Even after they are fully vaccinated, all students, faculty and staff must participate in pool testing every week. Students who complete all weekly testing requirements are entered into monthly prize raffles and a grand-prize drawing for free textbooks from the Campus Store. 
    • All SUNY Cortland community members must continue to follow all campus safety procedures, including face coverings and physical distancing, even if they are vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated students will not be required to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure. You will be deemed fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving your final dose.



Employees found not to be adhering to required expectations can be reported to their supervisors or to the Human Resources Office. Employees who are not following the requirements above and detailed further in the Guidelines for Returning to Work on Campus may be subject to severe disciplinary sanctions consistent with their collective bargaining agreement.


SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras has issued an emergency directive implementing a uniform system of sanctions for any SUNY students who violate COVID-19 policies. Strong and consistent consequences are necessary because COVID violations can have a disproportionately large impact on communities, threatening large numbers of people with a potentially fatal virus and threatening institutions’ ability to provide the educational experiences important to their students. Learn more about the enforcement and penalties.

SUNY Cortland health and safety measures

Cleaning protocols

  • Each of our instructional spaces and high-touch, high-traffic areas such as restrooms will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected twice per day.
  • There will be a quart bottle of disinfectant and a roll of paper towels in classrooms and other spaces for students and faculty to utilize for additional disinfecting as needed. There will also be wipes available to clean instructors' computer stations and computers in the computer lab. Do not use the spray bottles on the electronic equipment. The custodial staff will ensure the disinfectant and paper towels are stocked throughout the day.
  • Frequently touched surfaces in common areas of occupied buildings will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily by the custodial staff using EPA-approved spray products effective in addressing human coronaviruses. Frequently touched surfaces include:
    • Tables and chairs
    • Door handles
    • Handrails
    • Faucets and fixtures
    • Equipment handles
    • Elevator and vending machine buttons
    • Water bottle filling stations
  • As of July 14, 2020, Facilities Operations and Services has resumed routine and enhanced cleaning services for all buildings.
  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols will comply with CDC and NYSDOH guidelines and records will be maintained on campus documenting cleaner name, date and time.
  • Cleaning will not be the sole responsibility of campus custodians. Building occupants are required to use disinfectant spray and paper towels provided by Facilities Operations and Services to disinfect high-touch surfaces in their own workspace or shared spaces.

Communication and training

  • COVID-19 safety training will be delivered to all employees, including a required video prior to returning to campus.
  • There will be voluntary training for students who wish to become Blaze “Maskot” Ambassadors, where they will learn the importance and rationale behind safety measures in addition to how to educate peers.
  • Students will commit to being "Red Dragon Safe" before returning to campus.
  • Ongoing communications on COVID-19 safety protocols will occur through:
    • Campus Communicator emails
    • Online training
    • Website resources
    • Signage
    • Posters
    • Direct guidance from campus personnel
    • Wellness Wednesdays

Facilities modifications

  • Extensive COVID-19 safety signage will be deployed.
  • Physical distancing markers will be posted using tape or signs that denote 6 feet of spacing in commonly used and other applicable areas on the campus. They also will be applied to floors in high traffic corridors to denote a single direction of traffic and high-volume staircase will be denoted as “up” or “down” only. These markings will be in place before faculty and students return to campus.
  • Maximum capacity will be reduced in classrooms, laboratories, conference rooms and other gathering spaces. In spaces where required, furniture use will be restricted.
  • Offices with direct, outside air AC units will be run 24/7and local control will be restricted.
  • HVAC filter housings will be inspected and gaps between filter and filter housing will be closed to minimize air bypass.
  • Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings of HVAC filters have been reviewed prior to restarting and MERV filters with a higher classification will be installed where appropriate and feasible based on equipment parameters.
  • Regular preventative maintenance and care of HVAC filters will continue.
  • Guidance on HVAC systems from ASHRAE, CDC, NYSDOH and SUNY System Administration will be reviewed periodically to update preventative maintenance practices on campus.
  • Drinking fountains will be disabled but bottle-filling stations will be retained.
  • Building water systems will be flushed to prevent buildup of legionella bacteria from underuse.
  • Plexiglass screens and other engineering controls will be installed in workplaces at service counters and in other areas as required to achieve and maintain physical distancing.
  • Air-blown hand dryers will be disabled and paper towels provided for use.

Infection control

  • Sharing of tools and supplies is discouraged. When in contact with frequently touched surfaces or shared objects, individuals should must gloves. Shared objects must be disinfected after use, followed by handwashing or sanitization.
  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols will comply with CDC and NYSDOH guidelines and records will be maintained on campus documenting cleaner name, date and time.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection will be conducted on an increased basis on all high traffic and high contact common areas.
  • To maximize campus resources available for disinfection, campus community members will be asked to disinfect personal office equipment or high-touch objects in shared spaces and will be provided with supplies such as disinfectant wipes and sprays.
  • New protocols may require staff to empty their own trash cans at common locations or hallway bins.
  • Check-sheets or other indicators will be posted in buildings to indicate that disinfection has occurred.


  • Any individual without a Cortland ID number — essentially all who are not university employees or students — will not be allowed on campus, except under very limited circumstances.
    Visitors must complete the Visitor Registration and Screening form.
  • Neither employees nor students are allowed to host a guest.
  • No outside speakers, alumni, or guests of on-campus residents (including parents of the residents) will be allowed in campus buildings.
  • There will be no on-campus performances, public events, or public access to facilities such as the Dowd Gallery or the planetarium.  
  • The Admissions Office will oversee any visits of prospective students, including athletic recruits, their families and other enrollment-related visitors. 
  • Due to limited capacity, no visitors will be allowed in the Student Life Center, Park Center, Stadium Complex or other athletic or outdoor venues.  
  • Members of the surrounding community will continue to have access to city roads and walkways through campus but are not allowed inside campus buildings or facilities.
  • Only contractors and vendors providing services or functions essential to university operations will be allowed on campus. They should work with an employee of the office responsible for that service or function (such as Facilities Management or Cortland Auxiliary) to make sure they follow all applicable protocols for entering campus, including a screening for COVID-19 risk factors similar to the daily screen done by students and employees.

Key contact information