Coronavirus and Colleges

New York to Step Up College Area Bar Enforcement To Curtail COVID Spread

On Friday, New York announced it suspended the liquor licenses for 33 more bars and restaurants, bringing the total number of liquor licenses suspended in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to 201.

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What to Know

  • In an attempt to ensure bars and restaurants in areas where college students gather are abiding by COVID health measures, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will increase enforcement efforts around popular establishments frequented by college students.
  • For months, state officials have been cracking down on bars and restaurants violating public health rules concerning the pandemic. On Friday, New York announced it suspended the liquor licenses for 33 more bars and restaurants throughout the state for failure to adhere to coronavirus-related rules. This last round of suspensions brings the total number of liquor licenses suspended in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to 201.
  • This last round of suspensions brings the total number of liquor licenses suspended in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to 201.

In an attempt to ensure bars and restaurants in areas where college students gather are abiding by COVID health measures, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will increase enforcement efforts around popular establishments frequented by college students.

With outbreaks linked to colleges and universities across the nation, and in the state, "these stepped-up efforts will help keep our students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding communities safe," according to the state.

To date, this enforcement effort has found egregious violations in Cortland, Dutchess, Madison, Monroe, Oswego and Schenectady counties -- with violation leading to the summary suspension of the establishment's license. 

For months, state officials have been cracking down on bars and restaurants violating public health rules concerning the pandemic. On Friday, New York announced it suspended the liquor licenses for 33 more bars and restaurants throughout the state for failure to adhere to coronavirus-related rules. This last round of suspensions brings the total number of liquor licenses suspended in the state during the coronavirus pandemic to 201.

"New Yorkers have worked together to stop the spread of coronavirus -- but with our infection rate hovering around 1 percent and the threat of a second wave on the horizon, we must double down on the successful strategies that have helped us over the last six months," Cuomo said in a statement, adding that "this action should serve as a reminder to the small number of establishments who openly flout the rules that they are putting all New Yorkers at risk, and they will be held accountable."

Kicking up efforts to make sure that restaurants and bars frequented by the college crowd comes as there have been spikes in coronavirus cases in many institutions of higher education across the country, including colleges in New York state. On Friday, SUNY Oswego announced it was shifting to a 14-day remote learning plan as a temporary precaution to allow "the COVID-19 case total on campus to stabilize" following a surge in cases that was discovered last week.

Meanwhile, SUNY Oneonta closed for in-person instruction for the rest of the semester and send students home following a spike in coronavirus infections, the university said Sept. 3.

Chancellor Jim Malatras initially put the college on a two-week “pause” period Aug. 30 in order to focus on testing while limiting the spread of COVID-19. At that point, there had been 105 positive COVID-19 tests since the start of the semester a week early and 118 more were confirmed Sept. 3, bringing the total number of positives to 507 (out of a student body of 6,000.)

"The college now needs to take this new action to contain the virus and prevent further community spread," Malatras said. "While this is sudden news and something no one wanted, the risk to our campus and Oneonta community is too great. I know the vast majority of our students have been diligent in protecting our campus since day one. We committed to do everything we could to mitigate this situation, and today, that means ending residential housing for this semester."

All students, who started class on Aug. 24, will be transitioned to 100 percent remote learning for the rest of the fall semester, although some were concerned about possibly bringing the virus home with them.

The college plans to issue full refunds for housing and prorated refunds for dining for students who move out of their rooms, the chancellor said. Certain other broadly-charged fees will also be refunded on a prorated basis, with other details still to be determined.

The primary source of the infection spread has been traced to a number of student parties in and around campus, state officials have said. As of late August, five students and three campus organizations had been suspended for their involvement.

Reports of illegal partying prompted widespread campus testing. Initially, 20 positive cases were detected. A SUNY Upstate medical team was dispatched to test all students. The number rose to 105, prompting the initial two-week shutdown, and then to more than 500, the university said,

"I hope today serves as that wake-up call as we move forward to show how important this is to control the COVID beast, because it still exists and it spreads rapidly," Malatras said.

There has been a rise in cases on SUNY campuses across the state, Lynda Baquero reports.

That 100-case mark was sufficient to close the campus for two weeks, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new threshold for re-closing college campuses to in-person learning. Athletics and other extracurriculars must also be paused.

"This is a sad day for SUNY Oneonta. However, the actions we are taking will allow us to put our focus back on learning. This is not the course any of us wanted the semester to take, yet the last few days have showcased the ethic of care that is SUNY Oneonta's core," said university President Barbara Jean Morris. "Support from SUNY has been instrumental in fast-tracking a move-out plan that allows us to move forward. Now we will turn our attention to seeing that students get home safely."

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here

Source: ny.gov

The state has deployed a COVID "SWAT" team to Oneonta to assist in establishing 15-minute rapid testing sites. Nearly 100 contact tracers from the state were also dispatched.

Cuomo has cautioned that the outbreaks seen at Oneonta and other college campuses around the country are indicative of potential clusters that will emerge when K-12 schools reopen for in-person learning. New York City, the nation's largest public school system, has delayed the start of that by 11 days to accommodate teachers union's demands for additional safety measures.

"My advice on the K-12 is err on the side of caution. If you go to in-person education and you are not prepared or you can't actually implement the plan and do it on day one, you will see the numbers go up and then you will see more disruption," Cuomo said last week. "If you're not ready, better you start when you are ready."

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