Chancellor Malatras and SUNY Cortland President Bitterbaum Announce Pause on All In-Person Classes and Campus Activities Following Increase in COVID Cases

October 5, 2020

Pursuant to State Guidelines Residential Facilities Will Remain Open and Students to Stay on Campus for Temporary Two-Week Shift to Remote Learning to Prevent Further Spread of Virus

SUNY Cortland Will Retest Every Student and Increase Enforcement of Chancellor's New Uniform Safety Standards

College Mandates Full Compliance with Testing and Safety Protocols to Contain COVID Cases in Order to Resume In-Person Learning

Appoints Frank Lawrence, Interim Commissioner of SUNY University Police to Work with Cortland University Police on Safety Protocol Enforcement

Cortland, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum today announced a pause on all in-person classes and activities following an increase in COVID cases. At 101 cases, SUNY Cortland has tonight met the 100-case threshold to transition to remote learning under New York State Department of Health guidance. Many of the cases are from off-campus students.

Pursuant to New York State Department of Health guidance, residential facilities will remain open and students stay on campus for a temporary two-week shift to remote learning to prevent further spread of the virus. SUNY Cortland will retest every student for the virus and increase enforcement of Chancellor's new uniform safety standards, which were officially enacted on October 1. Students found to have violated safety guidelines will face immediate academic and housing suspension and possible dismissal, loss of athletic eligibility, and ineligibility for admission at every other SUNY college. Student groups in violation may be banned from campus permanently.

Chancellor Malatras appointed Frank Lawrence, Commissioner of SUNY University Police, to work with Cortland University Police on safety protocol enforcement.

Finally, the college will boost academic support services to ensure a successful shift to temporary remote learning. If cases stabilize and students comply with safety measures, the Cortland County Department of Health may authorize the resumption of in-person learning.

"Now that SUNY Cortland must pause and shift to remote learning the college must redouble its efforts to stabilize and contain the virus on campus," said Chancellor Malatras. "It's up to the entire campus community to come together and bend the curve so that every student has the chance to enjoy their campus experience."

SUNY Cortland President Bitterbaum said, "The health and safety of our community has always been our top priority, so making this shift in our operation is the best action to take given our circumstances. The next two weeks will be challenging. But it's what we need to do in order to continue functioning as a campus and a concerned member of the Cortland community. We can't let up. That's not what members of the SUNY Cortland family do."

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.

SUNY Cortland currently has 101 active COVID-19 cases within its current two-week window, which began on Saturday, September 26, and runs through Friday, October 9. Athletics and Greek Life were preemptively suspended indefinitely on September 13, and will remain suspended.

Since the semester began, SUNY Cortland has conducted 3,189 COVID-19 tests. Students who have contracted the virus or who may have been exposed to the virus are required to quarantine or isolate on campus. SUNY Cortland has adequate space for these students, and trained college staff routinely check in on them throughout the day to ensure that their needs are being met.

SUNY Oswego resumed in-person classes today after a similar, two-week pause was initiated on September 18. With 82 cases on campus, SUNY Oswego acted quickly to increase testing, tracing, and safety enforcement, and gained widespread buy-in from students who acted diligently and responsibly to dramatically reduce virus cases over the course of 14 days, ensuring a safe return to in-person learning.

To date, SUNY colleges have conducted more than 140,000 COVID-19 tests, with a positivity rate of 0.70 percent. The system-wide case rate continues to trend downward. The rolling 14-day positivity rate is 0.48 percent. Real time, customizable data on COVID-19 cases for SUNY's 64 colleges and universities through the SUNY COVID-19 Case Tracker is available online.

On September 25, Chancellor Malatras unveiled a comprehensive, uniform policy for disciplining students who violate COVID-19 safety guidelines. Drafted in consultation with campuses across the system, student violators now face immediate academic and housing suspension, as well as possible dismissal, and student organizations in non-compliance face a permanent campus ban. The new policy took effect on October 1.

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 country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 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 2023, 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 opportunities, visit

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Holly Liapis
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