ALBANY — If a college reaches 100 positive COVID-19 cases, or 5 percent of the school’s population, they must immediately shift to all-virtual classes for at least two weeks, according to new rules Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
The thresholds come as colleges across the state and country grapple with the challenges of reopening campuses to students and the positive cases that have followed.
“We should anticipate clusters and that’s what we’re seeing,” Cuomo said in comments to the media Thursday. “Be prepared for it, get ahead of it.”
State University of New York officials in recent days have announced efforts to ramp up pooled testing surveillance efforts and crack down on students not abiding by prohibitions against large-group gatherings, including off-campus parties. SUNY Plattsburgh on Wednesday announced the suspension of 43 students present at an unsanctioned party.
“Today’s action should send a strong message that irresponsible behavior has serious consequences, and I will support and urge all SUNY campuses to take similar action and use their maximum authority against anyone who blatantly violates these rules and endangers the community,” SUNY Chancellor-elect Jim Malatras said in a statement Wednesday.
During a visit to UAlbany on Wednesday, Malatras also said he would establish online “dashboards” at all SUNY campuses that would provide information about the number of students and staff tested and how many positive cases existed.
Private colleges are also testing students and staff as they welcome students back to the region from around the country, including scores of students who have had to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving to school. Skidmore College, for example, as of Tuesday had tested over 1,300 people with two people testing positive, according to a dashboard of results posted the schools website.
If a college reaches the 100 cases of 5 percent threshold, will have to go all-virtual for at least two weeks before reassessing the situation. If at the end of the two weeks the local health department determines the outbreak is under control, the school can resume in-person classes. If it’s not under control, they will have to impose additional mitigation measures.