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SUNY Plans COVID Testing Before Break

All State University of New York students, including those at Fredonia, will be tested for COVID-19 before heading back home before Thanksgiving.

That means SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities will test about 140,000 students over a 10-day period preceding the November break. With COVID-19 cases reaching record highs nationwide, this testing requirement will help prevent community spread as students return to their hometowns. Colleges and universities must submit a plan to test all of their on-campus students within that 10-day window no later than November 5.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning by State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras who also announced that campuses must develop schedules that conduct the test as close to a student’s departure date as possible.

“As in-person classes and instruction come to a close next month, tens of thousands of students will travel across the state and country to be with their families and complete their fall courses remotely,” Malatras said. “By requiring all students to test negative before leaving, we are implementing a smart, sensible policy that protects students’ families and hometown communities and drastically reduces the chances of COVID-19 community spread. While we understand there is a lot of focus on plans for the spring semester, we must first finish this semester safely. I want to thank our students for the phenomenal effort during these difficult times as well as SUNY health policy experts for helping us create this guidance that ensures a safe wind down of the fall semester.”

In accordance with previously approved fall semester plans, most SUNY colleges and universities are set to shift to 100 percent remote learning after Thanksgiving, with residential facilities shutting down, barring exceptions for students with extenuating circumstances. This new testing mandate is designed to ensure that transition happens safely.

All students who are taking at least one class on campus; utilizing on-campus services such as the gym, library, or dining hall; or working on campus must test negative for COVID-19 within 10 days prior to their college closing on-campus instruction and services. Antibody tests do not count toward this requirement.

Taking into account the time it takes for results to return, colleges should schedule tests as close as possible to students’ departure date. They should also consider allowing residential students to leave campus the moment they receive a negative test.

Colleges are advised to repeatedly and emphatically reinforce that students should strictly limit contact, wear masks, and practice social distancing between the time they take their test and the time they leave campus. This will greatly reduce chances of any new exposure to the new virus.

Non-residential students who test positive or who are exposed to COVID-19 must follow the strict quarantine and isolation guidance from the county health department.

Colleges and universities that currently require weekly pooled surveillance testing for every student can apply to have their preexisting policy fulfill this new requirement.

Colleges must work with their county health department to isolate or quarantine any residential student who tests positive for COVID-19 or is exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of the closing of the fall semester. They must be fully attendant to students’ varying needs throughout these quarantine and isolation periods.

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