Bulletin News

State change in COVID-19 guidelines raises Cortland threshold for “pause”


The New York State Department of Health has revised its guidance on determining when university campuses must go completely online due to COVID-19 infections. This new guidance means SUNY Cortland will not automatically go on pause if it records 100 positive tests within a two-week period.

The new policy, announced last week, does not require institutions like SUNY Cortland to pause unless 5% of its campus population tests positive for the virus during a rolling, 14-day period. Based on the estimated 4,185 students, faculty and staff who come to campus for any reason this semester, SUNY Cortland’s threshold number is now 209.

Over the last 14 days, SUNY Cortland reported 110 positive tests towards that 209-case trigger. Because the metric is always based on the previous 14 days, the number of positive tests will rise or fall daily instead of constantly growing larger during a specific two-week period.

“We are excited that the state has made this change, which is endorsed by our own health officials and experts,” SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “It will provide a more accurate picture of the university’s infection rate and our progress in containing the virus.”

SUNY’s COVID-19 Tracker will eventually be reconfigured to reflect the new state guidance. Until then, members of the public can determine how close Cortland is to a forced pause to in-campus activity by calling up Cortland’s report and looking beneath the first chart under the heading “Campus Administered Testing: Details.” A sub-heading, “SUNY Rolling 14 Days,” includes a data category titled “Positives.” That number tells you how many cases SUNY Cortland has towards its 209-case threshold.

The new protocol was favored by epidemiologists and medical professionals as a better measure of COVID-19 infection on college campuses. The previous policy set a threshold of the lesser of 100 cases or 5% of population during a static, date-defined 14-day period.

The 5% policy applies only to higher education institutions that are testing more than 25% of their populations weekly. SUNY Cortland has been testing 100% of its population every week since the start of the semester. Colleges and universities that are not testing at least 25% of their population are still subject to the 100-case pause threshold, measured over a rolling, 14-day period.