Andrew Dawson, Staff Writer |
SUNY Oneonta is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases on campus and in the community. Last semester, Oneonta was the first SUNY school to send its students home after a COVID-19 outbreak. This semester, the total number of COVID cases has been limited under new Acting President Dennis Craig, but positive cases have seen an increase.
Since Monday, Feb. 22, there have been an additional 59 students and seven employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 118 since the beginning of January. SUNY Oneonta Assistant Director of Business Services Graig Eichler could not say why he thinks there has been an increase in Oneonta cases, saying, “Honestly, I don’t know. Since the pandemic has started it has been consistently inconsistent where the spikes in COVID cases have appeared across our nation.”
Eichler could not predict if the increase of COVID cases will continue to be a trend: “The pandemic has been unpredictable from the outset. What would help… if all community members continue to practice the guidelines set forth by the CDC.”
On Thursday, Feb. 25, SUNY Oneonta’s COVID Response Team (CRT) sent an email to all students and employees, making the campus aware of the uptick in COVID cases. The email said, “The college is seeing an uptick in COVID cases associated with the campus community. A total of 11 new cases have been confirmed so far this week, and we expect to know the extent of the uptick within the next seven to 10 days.”
The email went on to say that students should continue to be vigilant, practice social distancing and follow the proper COVID-19 guidelines. The CRT also encourages students who are on campus to limit travel outside of the Oneonta area and keep social groups as small as possible.
The CRT later said, “We know that most of our students and employees are making sacrifices and doing the right things to protect themselves and our community from COVID. We are grateful for all your efforts, and the low positivity rates so far this semester indicate that they are working. Now, we all need to be extra careful and keep it up! Being vigilant and conscientious about social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand washing remains the best way to combat COVID.”
Since the email was sent, the college has administered 3,156 tests and there have been 37 new confirmed COVID cases among students within the campus community, according to SUNY Oneonta’s COVID Tracker. That’s a positivity rate of 1.17 percent for the campus. There has been a positivity rate of 3.1 percent for the entire state of New York. While the total number of cases has declined since previous weeks, the CRT has stated that the risk level within the Oneonta community is still very high.
In an attempt to combat the recent uptick, the college increased the number of off-campus students who are required to participate in the college’s pool testing program from 10 percent to 30 percent, which became effective Mar. 8. Each week, 30 percent of off-campus students living in the Oneonta area will be randomly selected and notified that they must get a pool test at Hunt Union, the college’s new testing site, the following week.
The CRT also stated that they cannot determine the extent of the recent uptick in COVID cases because it fluctuates daily. The CRT is continuing to strongly advise students and employees to limit their traveling and follow proper COVID-19 guidelines as cases become more consistent.