The following update was sent on behalf of President Erik J. Bitterbaum:
To the SUNY Cortland community,
Some of you may have heard that SUNY Oswego, a comprehensive campus similar to ours, today implemented a two-week pause to in-person education because the number of Oswego students who tested positive for the COVID virus was nearing the state-set threshold of 100 new cases over a two-week period.
Unlike SUNY Oneonta, which closed its campus and sent thousands of students home because of spiraling COVID cases, Oswego is keeping its students in place, limiting potentially dangerous student activity and continuing to provide services.
I bring this to your attention because SUNY Cortland may eventually face the 100-case threshold that requires SUNY campuses to move to remote learning. As of today, these are our numbers:
New cases today: 7
Active positive cases: 59
Recovered positive cases: 42
Cumulative positive cases: 101
Cases counted toward threshold: 32
The state resets the 14-day period counted toward the threshold every two weeks. The current period is Sept. 12-26.
Now that we have begun pool testing 1,000 students each week, our numbers will certainly rise. If SUNY Cortland hits the state threshold, we will not send students home. We will follow a model similar to Oswego’s pause, an approach that has worked successfully at other universities.
For at least two weeks, students will move from in-class education to remote learning. They will be asked to stay in Cortland and limit travel beyond residence halls and off-campus apartments to essential trips. After 14 days, the situation will be re-evaluated. We are developing plans for how such a pause would be implemented at SUNY Cortland, and will share details when they are completed.
We have decided on this approach for the same reason we strongly discourage all members of our community to travel unnecessarily, especially from Cortland to students’ home communities: We want to stop the spread of the virus.
By traveling home, students may carry the virus to their homes and families. The potential line of transmission also works in the other direction. Students who go home, even for a weekend, can pick up the virus and bring it back to Cortland. Pausing in place is the action recommended to college campuses by the Centers of Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the State University of New York administration.
Unless students are in quarantine or isolation, we cannot stop them from leaving Cortland. But they should realize that traveling is likely to put others at risk of contracting a potentially fatal virus.
Of course, it’s also possible we won’t reach the threshold. Students continue to adhere to safe practices when on campus, although we remain concerned about reckless socializing, parties and disregard for face coverings, physical distancing, and other safe practice when students are off campus.
Yesterday, we learned that only three of the 53 pools of people who participated in Wednesday’s initial day of surveillance testing contained one or more positive samples. Additional testing of individuals in those pools will determine who in those three groups actually carry the virus.
The way to keep these numbers low is not a mystery. It is outlined in our fall 2020 restart plan. All of us, students, faculty and staff, simply need to change our behavior and stay alert for situations in which the virus can be spread.
Please be mindful and stay safe.
All the best,
Erik J. Bitterbaum