While visiting campus, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced that the State of New York has directed SUNY Oneonta to suspend all in-person activities, including on-campus instruction, for the next two weeks in response to the college’s surge in COVID-19 cases. The two-week pause will begin at 9 p.m. today and last until Sept. 13.

This decision follows an Aug. 27 directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding mitigation actions colleges must take if their COVID-19 infection rate rises above a certain level. According to those guidelines, colleges must shift to remote learning and suspend in-person campus activities for two weeks once they reach 100 confirmed COVID-19 cases or 5 percent of their population.

SUNY Oneonta's total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is 105. This represents 3 percent of the faculty, staff and students who are on campus or using campus facilities.

Accelerated pooled testing this weekend has enabled the college to more clearly understand the situation, which called for this swift and strong response. While we had hoped for different results, the college is working with Gov. Cuomo’s office, SUNY, the New York State Department of Health, Otsego County Department of Health, and the City of Oneonta to put in place measures aimed at bringing this outbreak under control.

Because of the rapid increase in cases, the college will quarantine residential students in place for the next two weeks. Here is what that means:

  • Students will be allowed to go outside but will not be allowed to congregate in groups of three or more people. College facilities, including the library, Hunt Union and classroom buildings, will be closed to students, and students will not be permitted to leave campus.
  • Dining services will deliver meals to the residence halls beginning with lunch tomorrow.
  • OPT and Hale bus service to and from the campus will be suspended after this evening.

The suspension of in-person activities and classes does not mean campus is closed. However, beginning tomorrow, non-essential employees will not work on campus for two weeks. Most employees will telecommute.

All classes, including those with an in-person component, will be delivered fully online for the next two weeks.

Chancellor Malatras said the state will send a team of health professionals to Oneonta this week to establish three rapid testing sites where free testing will be available to members of the college and greater Oneonta community. Results will be available within 15 minutes of a test.

The college also will continue to require pooled testing of all students who live on campus or use campus facilities, and the state will make pooled testing available to employees beginning Wednesday. Extensive cleaning and disinfecting also will continue, with extra cleaning in any areas where an infected student or employee has spent time.

Before Sept. 13, SUNY, the New York State Department of Health and the college will reassess the situation. If we are able to effectively contain the spread of the virus and reduce the infection rate for our campus, we may be able to gradually phase in some in-person activities.

In a message to the campus community Sunday evening, President Morris said she understands that “this is not the start of the semester any of us had envisioned” and recognized that the vast majority of students have “done everything the college has asked, taken precautions to safeguard the community outside of campus, and consistently been respectful of one another.”

“I also apologize to the entire campus community for not being able to share more about this development as it was unfolding,” she said. “The need to quickly mobilize resources to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in Oneonta has taken all of the college’s attention over the last 48 hours. Now, in partnership with the City of Oneonta and Town of Oneonta, and with support from SUNY and the state, we are prepared to move ahead.”

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