Northeast governors ask colleges for help in slowing COVID spread

The home page of the SUNY New Paltz website includes instructions for students on how to get tested for COVID-19 before they leave campus for the Thanksgiving break.

Seven Northeast governors announced Wednesday they are encouraging residential colleges and universities in their respective states to provide testing for all students who will be traveling home for Thanksgiving “to the maximum extent possible” before they leave campus next week.
Any student who tests positive will be encouraged to isolate on campus before they can travel or provide their local health departments about travel and quarantine plans.

Colleges are also being asked to provide their students with information about the relevant quarantine policies in their home states.

The announcement comes after an emergency summit held this past weekend with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy; Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont; Delaware Governor John Carney; Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf; Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo; and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

The suggested guidelines announced this week mirror the protocols that SUNY adopted on October 27 for all of its 64 campuses.

“As everyone predicted, cases are rising as temperatures drop, and New York is not immune. With the holidays approaching, we are fighting ‘living room spread’ from small gatherings in private homes, and adding college students’ interstate travel will be like pouring gasoline on a fire,” Governor Cuomo said.

“We know this virus does not respect borders, which is why governors from across the region are working together to stop the spread.”

The bipartisan coalition of governors is strongly recommending that colleges and universities finish their fall semesters with remote instruction between Thanksgiving and winter break rather than require students to travel back to campus and then back home again in December.

Half of colleges and universities across the Northeast — including the State University of New York system — have already indicated they will be fully remote between Thanksgiving and the end of the fall semester.

Colleges and universities should prioritize on-campus programs for students who did not travel or who need in-person exams or clinical and laboratory experiences.

If colleges and universities do reopen for in-person instruction during this period, all returning students should receive COVID-19 tests and comply with relevant isolation and quarantine protocols. These institutions should also double down on precautions including frequent health screenings and surveillance testing due the increased risk of COVID exposure from student travel.

“Colleges and universities have to do their part by testing all students before they leave, informing them about quarantine rules, and keeping classes online between Thanksgiving and Winter Break,” Cuomo said. “We beat back the COVID beast in the spring, and by working together we can do it once again this winter.”