SUNY completes mandatory Thanksgiving exit testing of on-campus students, chancellor says

Photo courtesy of the State University of New York
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras checks out a classroom designed for social distancing during a visit to the campus of SUNY New Paltz on August 23. On Friday, Malatras returned to New Paltz to review the college’s mandatory pre-Thanksgiving COVID testing program.

Two days before Thanksgiving, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced that SUNY campuses have finished mandatory testing of students on campus with 152,788 tests conducted with a positivity rate of 0.63 percent between November 9 and November 23.

SUNY Upstate Medical University will process the remaining tests this week. Campuses are working in close coordination with local public health officials to monitor students testing positive and isolating. Currently 880 students are in isolation or quarantine on their campus.

The testing of all on-campus students prior to the Thanksgiving break was a major priority for SUNY administrators. The system’s colleges and universities have been testing regularly throughout the fall semester, conducting 535,439 tests to date with a positive rate of 0.52 percent.

SUNY students will not be returning to their campuses following the Thanksgiving break. Winter term classes will be fully remote, and spring term classes will remain remote until February 1.

Spring break and other holiday break periods are cancelled for all SUNY campuses in the spring semester. Face coverings will now be required in classrooms, conference rooms, and all other public spaces where students are not by themselves, even when six feet of social distancing is possible.

On Friday, Nov. 20, Malatras was on the SUNY New Paltz campus and met with President Donald Christian and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, as well as New Paltz students to discuss the system’s testing program.

“Today’s visit with students in person … helps me make sure their needs are being met and that they feel confident about our reopening for the spring semester,” Malatras said.

With the State University of New York (SUNY) being the largest public college system in the U.S., there has been extensive case-tracking done by students, faculty, and administration alike to ensure this past fall 2020 semester went as smoothly as possible.

This includes more than 500,000 COVID-19 tests administered to date, with a 0.50 percent positivity rate throughout the system.

Approximately 3,500 tests were performed on the New Paltz campus before the Thanksgiving break. Up to this point in the semester, New Paltz has tested more than 10,000 students and employees on campus, with a 0.28 percent positivity rate.

“We are proud of our students, who have responded to COVID-19 by carefully following public health guidelines and adopting a ‘We Not Me’ attitude and approach this fall,’ said New Paltz President Donald Chrisitan. “Our campus community has largely abided by the pledge to protect New Paltz and committed to mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, avoiding large gatherings, and extensive testing and tracing.”

As of today, Nov. 24, 2020, the school has 9 students in on-campus quarantine and 2 students in on-campus isolation, according to the SUNY New Paltz COVID-19 tracking page.

In his visit to the campus this past Friday, Chancellor Malatras reviewed the campus’ testing results to-date, as well as public health coordination when dealing with, and monitoring, positive student cases. This was to ensure the campus would be on track to proceed with Chancellor Malatras’s plan for reopening for the spring 2021 semester, which he announced earlier this month.

“This is a make or break moment for our county and our State, and SUNY’s innovative and proactive approach to testing will be critical in blunting the ongoing COVID resurgence,” added County Executive Ryan. “…We must all do our part at this important moment and SUNY has risen to the occasion.”

In the recently-pblished terms for reopening, Malatras says campuses should begin to prepare for mass-virtual gatherings for school activities, as well as maintaining social distancing and mask mandates for any and all on-campus activities. Malatras states that COVID-19 updates must be reported via daily-updated dashboards, and remain constant. The chancellor also mandates that all SUNY campuses release a clear and simply-worded notice that outlines “What Students Should Know” heading into the upcoming semesters.

As of now, the winter session will be entirely remote while the spring 2021 semester will begin remotely in late January before switching to partially in-person on Feb. 1, 2021.