What to Know
- The State University of New York announced a new testing mandate requiring all on-campus students to be tested for COVID within 10 days of Thanksgiving break, an effort to curb community spread
- Most SUNY campuses will switch all-remote after the break, under previously announced plans. The new testing mandate is designed to ensure that transition happens safely, college officials said
- SUNY estimates nearly 3,150 positive cases among students and staff this fall; 61 of its colleges and universities have conducted over 270,000 tests and reported about 1,400 positive cases
New York's public university system is requiring students to test negative for the coronavirus before they can leave for Thanksgiving break in hopes of preventing community spread as students fan across the country.
The system's 64 colleges and universities must come up with plans by Nov. 5 to test about 140,000 students within 10 days before Thanksgiving break, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras said.
Most SUNY campuses will switch to all-remote after Thanksgiving break, under previously announced plans. The new testing mandate is designed to ensure that transition happens safely, college officials said. It comes as the United States sees record high daily case totals for COVID-19 again. Forty-seven states are experiencing increases in new cases, while 34 are seeing daily deaths rise.
Several SUNY campuses have switched to all-remote in recent months after outbreaks linked to gatherings primarily off-campus. The testing policy will apply to all students who are taking at least one class on campus, working on campus, or using on-campus services including the gymnasium, library or dining hall.
SUNY will require colleges to isolate or quarantine any residential student who tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days before Thanksgiving break. Malatras is also recommending testing for faculty and staff.
“As in-person classes and instruction come to a close next month, tens of thousands of students will travel across the state and country to be with their families and complete their fall courses remotely,” Malatras said. “By requiring all students to test negative before leaving, we are implementing a smart, sensible policy that protects students’ families and hometown communities and drastically reduces the chances of COVID-19 community spread."
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
SUNY estimates nearly 3,150 positive cases among students and staff this fall. Meanwhile, 61 of its colleges and universities have conducted over 270,000 tests and reported about 1,400 positive cases.
Most SUNY universities didn't require students to get tested before returning to campus in August.
In Western New York, SUNY Geneseo's policy prevented students from arriving on campus if they didn't submit a negative COVID-19 test between seven to 14 days ahead of arrival on campus. The university, which typically enrolls about 6,000 students, has reported 48 virus cases this fall.
Universities that didn't pre-test students include SUNY Oneonta in central New York, which canceled in-person classes and sent students home in early September after off-campus parties sparked an outbreak. The university of about 6,000 has estimated more than 720 cases.
“A small party can lead to a big problem,” said Malatras, who announced students could face suspension for flouting strict pandemic protocols He said it appears students are better heeding social distancing rules now.
Malatras, who was named SUNY chancellor Aug. 21, says he doesn't know why the state's college system didn't require all students to be tested before arrival on campus. He said "I wasn't here for approval of those plans."
The chancellor has required every campus to conduct regular surveillance testing, and said accessing testing was a challenge for the system's campuses. Some schools have conducted tests regularly, like Stony Brook, which has required the 4,500 students there to be tested each week.
Malatras noted that SUNY Oswego pre-tested 6,000 of students but has still estimated more than 290 cases. The university paused in-person learning in mid-September and returned to in-person classes by Oct. 5.
Malatras, who has indicated that SUNY could require students to be pre-tested before returning to campus after fall semester, said the system is still finalizing its plans for spring semester.