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SUNY Oswego taking additional actions to slow coronavirus spread on campus

WRVO News (file photo)

Despite more than 100 cases of COVID-19 at SUNY Oswego in the last week, in-person classes will continue on campus, college president Deborah Stanley said Sunday. But the college is taking more actions to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Stanley said a number of new actions are being put in place, and will draw severe penalties if not followed.

"It is beyond time for you to do the right thing," Stanley said.

Effective immediately, all athletics activities have been suspended for the rest of the fall semester, including practices, meetings and workouts. Any student-athlete found violating the order will lose their athletic eligibility, Stanley said. All in-person dining on campus has been suspended indefinitely, and all food must be carried out of dining halls.

Visitors in residence halls will be prohibited, including students from other residence halls. While all Greek Life activities have already been suspended, any parties or large gatherings organized and hosted by Greek members will draw "individual and organizational penalties." In addition, individuals who violate quarantine and isolation orders will be suspended immediately.

Enforcement of on and off-campus gatherings will also be enhanced. Violators (hosts and attendees) facing student conduct sanctions including automatic suspension, loss of athletic eligibility, or loss of Greek Life status.

"I’m extending our current off-campus Social Distancing enforcement details, set to end next week, another month," said Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow in a statement. "We will continue to charge the host of mass gatherings under our Social Host law and will continue to list names and attendees of mass gatherings and forward them to SUNY."

Stanley said Sunday that 10 students have already been suspended for violations.

"This administration will come down hard on people who are partying, who are in clear violations of the rules," SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said during a press conference at SUNY Oswego Sunday.

Credit Jason Smith / WRVO News
WRVO News (file photo)
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras speak to the media in the Marano Campus Center at SUNY Oswego on Sunday, September 13, 2020

But one large question remained: Why doesn't SUNY Oswego have to move to remote instruction despite more than 100 cases in the last week? Guidance from New York state says any college with 100 positive tests, or positive tests from 5% of the on campus population, whichever is smaller, within a two-week period must move to 100% remote learning for 14 days.

But in-person learning at SUNY Oswego will continue. Why? Good timing.

The state's guidance showed the two-week period from August 28-September 11. During that time, SUNY Oswego had 82 cases of COVID-19. But over the weekend, there was another spike, bringing the total since August 28, as of late Sunday, to 144. But those cases reported over the weekend will be added to the next two-week reporting period, which ends September 25. That means only 49 of the 141 current active cases on campus apply to that 100 case threshold. There have been a total of 148 cases on campus since August 12. 

"Technically, they're under the threshold, but that doesn't mean they're not seeing issues emerging on their campus. So they're addressing those issues," Malatras said. "If things change, they'll address them again."

Stanley said an expanded testing operation will be put in place on campus this week, which will allow all students, and any faculty and staff member to be tested. The college will now require all off-campus students to be tested if they take classes on campus.

"We want to bend this curve. So every day we're going to assess where we are," Stanley said. "We're going to look at the numbers every day. We're going to continue to test our students. We know they're getting tested elsewhere, and we're going to look at those numbers as well."

Malatras said he doesn't want to see a small percentage of students ruin the semester for everyone else.

"To that individual student who says 'It doesn't matter to me. I'm fine. I can get COVID.,' today should be a wake up call for you," he said. "You could impact the academic careers of all of your classmates on this college campus right now. You could actually end in-person class activity, which is why they're here."

Disclaimer: WRVO Public Media is located on the SUNY Oswego campus. WRVO's broadcast license is held by the State University of New York.

Jason has served as WRVO's news director in some capacity since August 2017. As news director, Jason produces hourly newscasts, and helps direct local news coverage and special programming. Before that, Jason hosted Morning Edition on WRVO from 2009-2019. Jason came to WRVO in January of 2008 as a producer/reporter. Before that, he spent two years as an anchor/reporter at WSYR Radio in Syracuse.