SUNY Oneonta will close for in-person instruction for the next two weeks following a spike in coronavirus infections, incoming Chancellor Jim Malatras said Sunday.
The primary source of the infection spread has been traced to a number of student parties in and around campus, state officials said. So far, five students and three campus organizations have 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, approximately 3,000 in total.
After testing students on campus, the total number of positive cases rose to 105, about 3 percent, Malatras said.
100 cases is the minimum necessary to force a campus closure according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent announcement made last week. On Thursday, he lowered the threshold for re-closing campuses from 9 percent to 5 percent or 100 cases, whichever is triggered first. Athletic activities and other extracurriculars must also be suspended, and dining hall options must move to take-out only.
A COVID "SWAT" team will deploy to Oneonta in the coming days to establish 15-minute rapid testing sites. Malatras said more information would be released Monday, but the testing scheduled to start Wednesday and will be made available to all residents of Oneonta. 70 contact tracers from the New York State Department of Health will also be dispatched to the campus.
The chancellor said at the end of two weeks, state and school officials will reassess with the local health department on the return to in-person learning.
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 and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
"We have to be careful. New York is very much the exception to what is going on around the world with COVID. But we have to protect that progress," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on a teleconference Sunday.
"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 added. "If you're not ready, better you start when you are ready."
The Oneonta campus is not alone. Last week, SUNY Plattsburgh officials announced the suspension of over 40 students who attended an unsanctioned party.
Dozens more faced suspension at Montclair State University, Marist College, and UConn for failing to adhere to state and school protocols. In nearly every case, school officials site unauthorized gatherings and a failure to wear appropriate face coverings or socially distance.
Overall, the state's infection rate remains well below 1 percent, Cuomo said Sunday. New York completed a record-high 100,000 tests Saturday with .69 percent of those returning positive -- that's 23 days of the state's daily positivity rate below 1 percent, Cuomo said.