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Cornell President Martha E. Pollack announced Tuesday that students would stay home after Spring Break and finish their coursework online. On Wednesday she outlined the reasons that decision was made. Pollack said health experts advise that the two phases of controlling a pandemic are containment and mitigation. She said that theUnited States is beyond the containment phase, and that mitigation works best when started early.

"The best way that we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is through social distancing,"Pollack wrote. "Simply put, you work to minimize the number of interactions that provide the opportunity for the disease to spread. So, to the extent possible, you limit or eliminate large groups of people coming together and you try to minimize the number of people congregating in close settings. Universities are places that, by definition, have these elements; most notably in dormitories, where many students live closely together, eat together and share bathrooms, and in classrooms, where many students often sit in close proximity for extended periods of time."

Pollack noted that many institutions are closing their campuses in favor of 'virtual instruction' earlier than Cornell's later spring break, but Cornell will keep students on campus until the scheduled break unless there is an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus. She said students have asked why the campus is being closed when their age group is least threatened by the coronavirus. She pointed out that it is more of a risk to some students as well as faculty and staff.

"Students have also asked: wouldn’t it be safer to stay on campus rather than go home? That is an extremely difficult question to answer, because, of course, the answer is different for every student. But the nature of universities, with many people coming and going and with many large events, and students living in close quarters, does pose an inherent risk. And that risk would greatly increase were thousands of students to go off for spring break and then return to Ithaca from destinations around the country and, possibly, the world," she wrote.

Pollack said that students should practice 'social distancing' when they get home. She said Cornell officials are working on answering further questions students may have.

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