Ongoing COVID-19 surge threatens in-person classes
COVID surge threatens in-person classes
With active cases of COVID-19 on Syracuse University’s campus surging to a total of 76 as of Friday, school officials are monitoring another critical data point that could impact the future of the fall semester.
SU has reported a total of 80 positive cases to the New York State Department of Health in the past 14-day reporting period. According to state guidelines set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, any school that exceeds 100 active cases during one reporting period, must shut down residential learning.
As case numbers ticked up this week including 40 in the past two days, SU officials identified a cluster of 68 active cases that were linked to off-campus parties held at the end of last week that has prompted contact tracing and coordination with the Onondaga County Health Department.
“We are cautiously optimistic that the quick and aggressive action we have taken has mitigated the potential for significant additional infection outside this cluster,” Vice Chancellor Michael Haynie said in a campus-wide email. “While we are certainly not out of the woods, the data does suggest — if we remain vigilant and compliant — that it is within our ability to contain the current outbreak.”
Haynie urged students to remain in Central New York to prevent “importing” the virus to the campus. The recent outbreak can be traced back to students who left campus and returned infected.
Fraternity and Sorority Affairs assistant dean Pam Peter said the Greek community represents 54 percent of all active COVID-19 cases on campus despite only accounting for 20 percent of the student population.
“Our ability to stay on campus is fragile,” Peter said Friday in an email to members of Greek life. “If we can’t contain the current cluster and the local health department determines that we can’t track, test, and isolate all of the cases – we will be asked to close campus.”
As of Friday, Haynie said in-person classes would continue, however, all on-campus student activities will remain paused. Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed is being asked to contact the COVID Program Management Office at 315.443.6180 or email@example.com.
With this week’s surge in active coronavirus cases tied to an off-campus party, Department of Public Safety officers will shift their patrol efforts to enforce state and school rules for gatherings rather than merely educating students.
Vice President for the Student Experience Robert Hradsky and DPS Chief Bobby Maldonado credited a majority of the SU community with adhering to public health protocols but stressed that more accountability was needed.
“Almost this entire increase in COVID-positive cases can be traced to one off-campus party,” the SU officials said in a campuswide email Wednesday. “Our current situation should serve as a clear and visible reminder of just how vulnerable we all are to a small number of individuals not upholding the Stay Safe Pledge.”
In an effort to prevent outbreaks of this nature, SU has enacted these new policies, contained in the campuswide email, regarding hosting parties both off and on-campus:
1. Effective immediately, any SU student listed as a leaseholder or occupant for an off-campus property where a party is held in violation of New York State social gathering directives, or in violation of relevant provisions of the Syracuse University Stay Safe Pledge, will be immediately referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR) for review and appropriate action.
2. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is enhancing patrols in university neighborhoods with a shift from education to enforcement. Students who are participating in social gatherings in violation of New York State social gathering directives or the Syracuse University Stay Safe Pledge will be referred to OSRR.
Hradsky and Maldonado urged students to follow the guidelines of the Stay Safe Pledge.
“Think of those around you,” the email stated. “And remember, it’s on all of us to successfully finish the semester safely, together and on campus.”
As Syracuse University opened a new testing site at the former Carrier Dome, school officials confirmed Wednesday the second day of significant increases to the active COVID-19 cases on campus.
According to SU’s COVID-19 dashboard, 20 new cases were added to bring the total active cases to 45. On Tuesday, 16 new cases were reported. Parties along Walnut Avenue late last week have been the primary cause of the emerging cluster of coronavirus cases.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 134 students were in quarantine, an increase of 72 students from the previous day.
SU officials said the new cases can ultimately be traced back to one or more students who traveled outside of the Central New York area and returned to campus.
“The overwhelmingly positive and selfless behavior, exhibited by the vast majority of our students to this point in the semester, makes our current situation all the more disappointing,” said J. Michael Haynie, SU vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation. “It will take quick and coordinated cooperation of the entire campus community to prevent this situation from expanding beyond our ability to control.”
Also on Wednesday, free saliva swab testing for students, faculty and staff started in the Stadium. The site will be open through Gate N from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday for those with SU IDs.
The increase in cases has prompted SU to cancel all in-person student activities with the exception of classes or official SU sports. Also, social gatherings with more than five people who do not live together have been prohibited both on and off-campus.
Those who think they may have been exposed are asked to contact the COVID Program Management Office at 315.443.6180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a campus-wide email Tuesday evening, Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie announced an emerging cluster of 45 positive COVID-19 cases have been detected within the campus area, stemming from an off-campus party in an apartment building on Walnut Avenue late last week.
In the same email, Haynie underlined the severity of this spike in cases, “This is a serious situation, and as I said in my previous message, it will take quick and coordinated cooperation of the entire campus community to prevent this situation from expanding beyond our ability to control.”
Several new provisions were also announced in the email:
- All in-person student activities, except classes, associated coursework, and intercollegiate athletics, are temporarily paused. This includes student organization and University-sponsored events, such as Orange After Dark, University Union, the Barnes Center at The Arch.
- The Stay Safe Pledge has been amended, stating social gatherings on- and off-campus may not exceed five individuals who do not live together.
- A “no-visitors” policy for Greek houses, (beyond those who reside in those houses), has been adopted.
- And the University continues to ask that friends and family refrain from visiting campus.
“This emerging cluster is the result of one or more students returning to campus after traveling outside of Central New York to visit another college late last week,” an earlier campus-wide email sent Tuesday afternoon, stated.
Responding to the immediate outbreak, in cooperation with the Onondaga County Health Department, the identifying and isolation process is already underway for those who might’ve been infected.
In the email, Haynie stated his disappointment with the actions of the students who were at the off-campus gatherings and also commended the majority of the student body for exhibiting positive and selfless behavior thus far. Saying that the actions of these few students are endangering the Syracuse community and making the “current situation all the more disappointing.”
SU is asking anyone who showed up to the social gathering to stay at home and contact the COVID Program Management Office as soon as possible.
Students living in The 505 on Walnut received an email from the apartment complex Tuesday afternoon stating that they have “confirmed with Syracuse University that that email did not pertain to our property.”
In an email sent out to Greek Life members Tuesday afternoon, Assistant Dean of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs Pamela Peter advised all members of Greek organizations to get tested.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I highly encourage all of you to go to the COVID-19 testing site on the quad…to be tested,” she wrote in the email. “Please wear your masks and remember to practice social distancing.”
There are currently 25 active cases and 62 students in quarantine, according to Tuesday’s SU COVID-19 dashboard update. SU expects more positive cases as testing continues this week.
Vice Chancellor Michael Haynie announced in a campus-wide email Monday that Syracuse University’s main testing center will be moving from the quad to the newly renovated Dome stadium. The move is being made in preparation for the upcoming cold weather.
The stadium testing site will open Wednesday. Students will need to enter through Gate N and show their SU ID in order to get tested. This site will not do rapid tests and will not require appointments. The test is a saliva swap that requires students to not eat or drink for 30 minutes before in order to get an accurate result.
Also, Haynie announced that the testing center in Skybarn on South Campus will be closed and transitioned into a flu shot clinic. Skybarn will reopen as a COVID-19 testing site at the end of the month.
The email also confirmed that SU will begin providing testing for faculty. The faculty will be able to get tested at the stadium with a saliva swap. Negative results will be sent out over email, but those who test positive will be notified over the phone.