Cornell University Requires All Employees To Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

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Cornell University previously allowed employees to opt out of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine if they agreed to undergo weekly testing. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — Cornell University will now require all employees to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 8th or face termination.

Wednesday’s announcement from Cornell said the university is considered a federal contractor. Under President Biden’s executive order, federal contractors must have all their employees vaccinated. That would now apply to all Cornell employees.

Nellie Brown is a workplace safety expert at Cornell. She wasn’t involved in the decision, but Brown said a vaccine mandate will go a long way to help protect against infections.

“In a public health setting, vaccine mandates are not illegal, they’re not an infringement of your body’s integrity,” Brown said. “That’s not what this is about. You don’t have rights to infect other people.”

Workers can seek a medical or religious exemption.

Cornell, like many other universities, was quick to implement a vaccine mandate for students ahead of the current school year, but stopped short of requiring vaccines for employees.

Previously, Cornell employees could opt out of vaccination without a medical or religious exemption if they agreed to undergo weekly surveillance testing.

The updated policy affects a little over one thousand employees who aren’t vaccinated, according to an analysis of Cornell’s most recent COVID vaccine data. Most of those workers are support staff, 17 are professors.

Nearly all COVID-19 cases at Cornell in recent weeks have been from support staff. While virtually all students and professors are fully vaccinated, 9 percent of support staff are not.

In comparison, about 32 percent of Tompkins County residents are not fully vaccinated, inclusive of Cornell. Breakthrough cases have also become increasingly common in that county.

It’s not clear yet if other colleges with federal contracts, like some in the SUNY system, will implement similar requirements for their employees. A SUNY spokesperson did not respond to request for comment before publication.