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Hello lawsuits? Cornell University requires staff, students to be vaccinated before returning to campus

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Cornell University has joined the wave of schools that are announcing that faculty, staff, and students must be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to classes on campus this coming fall.

University President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff announced in a press release that returning to campus would be conditional upon proof of vaccination.

“With the recent announcements of expanded vaccine eligibility in New York and other states, and increasing vaccine production, it is likely that all members of our community will be able to obtain vaccination sometime this spring or summer,” they noted in a statement last week. “Accordingly, Cornell intends to require vaccination for students returning to Ithaca, Geneva, and Cornell Tech campuses for the fall semester.”

There will reportedly be exceptions made in regards to religious or medical objections. This is a concerted effort by the school to purportedly return to in-person classroom instruction. The statement did not mention if face masks will be required after vaccination.

“Individuals who are not able to obtain vaccination prior to arrival for the fall semester, or whose vaccination is not recognized by New York state, will be expected to be vaccinated as soon after their arrival as possible, and Cornell is investigating ways to facilitate this process,” the university said.

Cornell’s fall semester will commence the week of September 2. The university is home to 23,620 students. That includes approximately 15,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students.

Students and staff are being directed to a “proof of vaccination” online portal where they will enter their verification of “vaccination status.” Those planning to attend and those working at the university are required to register beginning on April 15 “once they have completed the dose schedule for their vaccination.”

“Once we have better data about the degree of community protection that has been achieved, we will offer additional details regarding full campus reactivation in a safe and responsible manner,” the statement explained.

The school is shooting for “herd immunity” where “the degree of immunity is sufficient to prevent the spread of virus within the community.” They said if that level is reached, that “classes normally taught in person will return to that mode of instruction, without any routinely scheduled online option.”

“All members of our community – faculty, staff and students – should begin to plan for this return to in-person teaching and learning in the fall of 2021,” the statement went on to say.

If less than half of the student population has received their vaccinations by the beginning of the fall semester, the school will continue its hybrid schedule of online instruction as well as teaching in “de-densified classrooms.”

Rutgers University was allegedly the first school to require vaccinations. That happened on March 25. Many more universities are expected to follow their example.

Cornell’s mandate follows New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proclaiming that on April 6, anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for the vaccine. Cuomo is also requiring vaccine passports for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter many venues. The “Excelsior Pass” was introduced on April 2.

The Biden administration is also considering and working on a nationwide vaccine passport for businesses and entertainment venues. A digital version of the vaccine passport is said to be in the works currently and “could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass.” It could face legal challenges concerning privacy and there are concerns of hacking and counterfeiting.

A number of states are expected to push back against vaccine passports. Florida became the first to do so when Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on April 2 that had signed an executive order that banned them.

“Today I issued an executive order prohibiting the use of so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports,” DeSantis stated on Twitter. “The Legislature is working on making permanent these protections for Floridians and I look forward to signing them into law soon.”

Twitter took note of the development at Cornell University:

 

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