Chancellor Malatras and SUNY Cortland President Bitterbaum Extend Pause on All In-Person Classes and Activities for Additional Two Weeks in Effort to Stabilize COVID Case Rate on Campus

October 20, 2020

In Accordance with State Guidelines, Residential Facilities Will Remain Open and Students Will Stay on Campus, 100% Remote Learning to Continue Through Tuesday, November 3

Cortland Students Under Review for Reckless Behavior Violating SUNY’s Uniform Emergency Safety Directive, Chancellor Directs Cortland University Police to Work with Local Law Enforcement to Increase Enforcement

Chancellor Convenes College Leaders, Local Elected Officials, Faculty, Staff and Student Reps, University Police, and Local Law Enforcement to Discuss COVID Containment Efforts

SUNY Upstate Medical University Deploys Mobile Testing Van to Cortland Campus to Immediately Boost Testing, State Department of Health Sends 25 Additional Case Investigators to Assist Cortland County Health Department

Chancellor Reminds Cortland Students about SUNY’s Expanded Mental Health Services as Pause is Extended


Cortland, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum today announced a two-week extension to Cortland's pause on all in-person classes and activities in order to stabilize COVID cases on campus. At 166 active cases, Cortland has surpassed the New York State Health Department-mandated 100-case threshold that triggers an immediate shift to exclusively remote learning for two weeks.

Pursuant to state guidance, residential facilities will remain open and students will stay on campus through this second, two-week pause. Remote learning will continue exclusively through Tuesday, November 3. Cortland previously paused in-person learning and activities on October 5. Today's announcement is an extension of those state-mandated measures.

Additional SUNY Cortland students are under review this week for suspension for their involvement in parties, gatherings, and other reckless behavior that is contributing to the virus spread on campus. These actions violate SUNY's uniform emergency safety directive, which went into effect on October 1. In response, Chancellor Malatras is directing University Police to work closely with local law enforcement agencies to increase safety enforcement efforts in off-campus student neighborhoods.

SUNY Upstate Medical University—a nationwide leader in COVID testing whose FDA-approved saliva test allows SUNY to process up to 120,000 tests per week—has deployed its mobile testing van to Cortland to immediately increase pooled surveillance testing over the next two weeks. The State Department of Health is also deploying 25 additional case investigators who will work with the Cortland County Health Department. The Department of Health currently has 225 contact tracers working in the Central New York/Southern Tier region.

Prior to today's press conference, Chancellor Malatras met with President Bitterbaum and members of his leadership team, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin, and representatives from the Cortland County Health Department, UUP, CSEA, Faculty Senate, Student Government, University Police, and local law enforcement to discuss mitigation, testing, tracing, and enforcement plans for the next two weeks.

"SUNY Cortland's number of COVID-positive cases has not stabilized, necessitating the need to continue the college's pause," said Chancellor Malatras. "We are partnering with everyone in our power to aggressively boost testing, tracing, and enforcement efforts in hopes of getting this virus under control. I thank Governor Cuomo for providing additional assistance to help with contact tracing and SUNY Upstate Medical University for providing their mobile testing van. I share the anger and frustration felt by students who are doing the right thing, yet must still have their semester disrupted. This is a challenging time that requires uncompromising vigilance and uniform commitment from each and every person on campus—and that's what we need to see at SUNY Cortland over the next two weeks."

SUNY Cortland President Bitterbaum said, "The health and safety of our community remains SUNY Cortland's top priority. In recent days we have begun to see a slight decline in new and active cases. With an extension of study-in-place and the continued diligence of our students, faculty, staff, state and local health officials, and the SUNY system, we are optimistic that we will be able to contain the spread of the virus."

Faculty Senate Chair Genevieve Birren said, "COVID-19 has presented its challenges for faculty throughout the system, having to adapt to distance learning. We understand the need to extend the pause for in-person learning to stabilize cases and better ensure that we keep faculty and students safe. And we appreciate the attention and resources from Chancellor Malatras and President Bitterbaum."

Student Government Association President, Callie Humphrey said, "The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is to work together during times of uncertainty and in response to this health crisis. The acts of a few can impact the wellbeing of many, so while the majority of SUNY Cortland students have shown their dedication to the safety protocols set forth by SUNY System, it is crucial that we have everyone's compliance, which I know we can do, in order to move forward as a campus."

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said, "The decision to extend the pause on in-person classes at SUNY Cortland is fully supported by our office, and we commend Chancellor Malatras for ensuring that the safety of the campus community and its residents remains a priority. We are all part of the same community and we will continue to work together with President Bitterbaum to protect everyone and contain this virus. My office has increased enforcement and is ready to help in any way possible."

State Senator James L. Seward said, "The extension of the pause at SUNY Cortland is a strict but necessary action to protect those on campus and the community at large. I commend Chancellor Malatras, President Bitterbaum, and all involved as they work to contain the COVID outbreak and ultimately resume normal campus activities. Attention to detail must be the rallying cry moving forward with a focus on enhanced testing, enforcement of safety guidelines, and swift discipline for those who put the health and well-being of others at risk."

State Assembly Member Barbara Lifton said, "I want to thank SUNY Chancellor Malatras for the extra attention he is bringing to bear on SUNY Cortland, including more tracing staff and greater testing capacity from Upstate Medical, in order to further support the efforts of the SUNY Cortland Administration. I'm also glad to see the encouragement by the Chancellor of even greater collaboration between the camps and local municipalities. From this increased and joint effort, I am hopeful that we will see a significant decline in cases and a resumption of in-person classes, done safely."

Pursuant to NYSDOH guidance, if a campus reaches the 100 or five percent threshold within a two-week period, the campus must implement the following:

  • Convert all campus dining and food service options to takeout/delivery.
  • Deliver all classes through remote learning, but may continue to conduct in-person activity such as clinical, laboratory, licensure, and research, in consultation with the local health department.
  • Suspend in-person athletics, extracurricular programs, and non-essential services. Medical services, counseling, and other services will continue.
  • Keep all residential facilities open.

Cortland currently has 166 active COVID-19 cases within its current two-week window, which began on Saturday, October 10, and runs through Friday, October 23. More specific data—including three-, seven-, and 14-day rolling positivity rates—is easily accessible online through SUNY's COVID-19 Case Tracker.

On October 5, with 101 COVID-19 cases in the prior two-week window, Chancellor Malatras and President Bitterbaum announced the initial, two-week pause on in-person classes and activities. Athletics and Greek Life were preemptively suspended indefinitely on September 13, and have remained suspended.

To date, SUNY colleges have conducted more than 225,000 COVID-19 tests, with a positivity rate of 0.56 percent. The system-wide case rate continues to trend downward. The rolling 14-day positivity rate is 0.36 percent.

Expanded Mental Health Services

Recognizing the mental and emotional toll of the pandemic and the impact of increased social isolation throughout these pause periods, SUNY is extending tele-counseling services to all Cortland students through SUNY Upstate Medical—one of SUNY's two tele-counseling hubs. Cortland students can now schedule tele-counseling appointments with health professionals at Upstate Medical. Student Advocate John Graham is also arranging a series of listening sessions for Cortland students who feel frustrated, isolated, and lonely.

Students can also utilize SUNY's peer-to-peer assistance hotline. Operated through the University at Albany's Middle Earth Program, the hotline was recently made accessible to all SUNY students as part of a sweeping expansion to mental health and wellness services for students across the SUNY system. The hotline is open 1 p.m. through midnight Monday through Thursday, and operates 24/7 over the weekend, beginning on Fridays at 1 p.m. and closing on Sundays at 11:59 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters.

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, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-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 are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than 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

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