Chancellor Malatras, in Consultation with President Morris, Directs SUNY Oneonta to Shift to Immediate Remote Learning as 105 Students Test Positive for COVID-19 After Campus-Wide Testing

August 30, 2020

No In-Person Classes and Limited Campus Activity for Two Weeks to Allow Contract Tracing and Immediate Quarantining Measures to Contain Spread of the Virus with Strict Enforcement by Campus; Partners with NYSDOH to Deploy 70 Contract Tracers and 8 Investigators

Chancellor Appoints Special Advisor to Join Campus Leadership in Managing Crisis

Five Students and Three Campus Organizations Suspended and Campus Pursuing Additional Suspensions; Chancellor Malatras Supports Maximum Disciplinary Actions Against Students as Uptick in Cases Directly Related to Ignoring Safety Protocols

SUNY Upstate Medical Continues to Test All Students

Photos from SUNY Chancellor's Visit are Available Online

Oneonta, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras, in consultation with SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris, today directed SUNY Oneonta to shift immediately to remote learning as 105 students test positive for COVID-19 after SUNY tested all students on campus. There will be no in-person classes and limited campus activity for two weeks to allow for extensive contact tracing and immediate quarantining measures to contain the spread of the virus, which will be strictly enforced by campus. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo deployed a testing SWAT team to the City of Oneonta to establish three rapid testing sites available to all Oneonta residents. Testing will start Wednesday and will be free for the residents.

New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker has provided eight case investigators and 70 contact tracers to help with contact tracing on campus. Chancellor Malatras appointed Hank Bennett, SUNY system deputy chief operating officer, as a special advisor to guide the campus testing and tracing over the two-week pause.

"Our campus-wide testing results give confirmation to our growing concern that SUNY Oneonta was at risk for more coronavirus cases as a few students blatantly ignored guidelines to keep the campus safe," said Chancellor Malatras. "We know that the vast majority of students at SUNY Oneonta – and across our system – recognize the importance of COVID-19 safety protocols, and now we need full compliance. Those who engage in selfish, irresponsible behavior will face consequences and I applaud President Morris for taking swift action. With this data, SUNY, the Department of Health, and the City of Oneonta are providing additional resources and personnel to support President Barbara Jean Morris and her team as they work to contain the spread further. Over the next two weeks as campus goes to remote learning, President Morris, Mayor Gary Herzig, and I will continue to monitor the situation and will be prepared to take further actions. I thank Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health for immediately deploying resources to aid Oneonta."

Five students and three campus organizations have been suspended by SUNY Oneonta President Morris and the campus is pursuing additional suspensions. Chancellor Malatras supports maximum disciplinary actions against students ignoring guidelines as the increase in cases is directly related to students breaking safety protocols.

SUNY Oneonta President Morris said, "Accelerating pooled testing this weekend has enabled the college to more clearly understand the situation, which called for this swift and strong response. While we had hoped for different results, the college is working with Governor Cuomo's office, SUNY, the New York State Department of Health, Otsego County DOH, and the City of Oneonta to put in place measures aimed at bringing this outbreak under control."

UUP President Fred Kowal said, "UUP welcomes the steps taken today by Chancellor Malatras regarding the outbreak of COVID at Oneonta. The quick response is what is absolutely necessary to protect the health and safety of the campus and community. We will work closely with the Chancellor, and the campus and chapter leadership to insure that the outbreak is controlled quickly and the life of the campus can return to normal as soon as possible."

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said, "In a short period of time, SUNY has identified the number of cases and is moving to remote learning to stop the spread of the coronavirus. This is the kind of swift action we need, and I appreciate Chancellor Jim Malatras's focus on the safety of SUNY Oneonta and our city. We will continue to work together in these next two weeks of intensive contact tracing, and as the semester progresses."

Senator James L. Seward said, "I commend the swift, decisive action from SUNY and Chancellor Malatras as we work to thwart this health threat and minimize the outbreak of COVID-19 in our community. The steps being instituted by SUNY will help protect the campus community along with those who live and work throughout Oneonta and the surrounding region. I urge everyone to continue to take this pandemic seriously and to follow recommended safety precautions."

On Friday, August 28, Chancellor Malatras sent personnel and resources from SUNY Administration and Upstate Medical to accelerate pooled surveillance testing of every student on the Oneonta campus over a three-day period. Upstate Medical is training people on campuses to administer further testing over the course of the semester.

The Oneonta Police Department and SUNY Oneonta Police have been working in close partnership to protect the health and safety of the campus community and the surrounding neighborhoods.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. As of Fall 2019, more than 415,500 students were enrolled in a degree-granting program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide exceeded $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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