EDITORIAL: SUNY covid plan goes too far

Testing at SUNY Schenectady campus lot in Schenectady last week. Credit: Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

Testing at SUNY Schenectady campus lot in Schenectady last week. Credit: Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

If you test positive for covid at work, you can go home to recover.

If you go to the doctor’s office and test positive, you can go home to recover.

But if you’re a college student attending classes or using facilities at any SUNY campus and you test positive, you can’t go home.

A new policy announced Tuesday by SUNY mandates students be tested for covid within 10 days of Thanksgiving vacation. If they test positive, they’re not allowed to go home to recuperate.

Instead, they’ll be quarantined for 14 days in their campus housing or off-campus housing in the community where the college is located.

This policy, while well intended, is not well considered.

Students attending these schools are not prisoners of their college campuses.

They’re free to go as they please.

And in the rest of the state, covid tests are not mandatory for ordinary citizens. Nor are there currently restrictions on travel within New York state.

But if you’re a SUNY college student who wants to go home for Thanksgiving, you not only would be mandated to take a test that others are not, but if you fail it, your travel is immediately restricted.

The college is certainly within its rights to require a student to text negative if he or she wants to return to campus. That’s to protect its students and staff.

But does the college have the right to impose its restrictions beyond campus?

This new policy is taking the state’s power too far and starts to wade into the Big Brother controls that opponents of even modest restrictions latch onto.

The decision on whether to test before leaving campus should be up to the individual student. If that student tests positive, he should be able to recover at home if he can get there without going on a plane or by mass transit. Precautions should be taken to ensure the student gets home safely and without infecting others.

If that student returns home and then tests positive, it should be up to the student’s home state or county health department to impose a house quarantine.

And it should be up to that student’s family to determine how and where the student should be quarantined to stop the spread within the household.

If the student chooses to take a test while still on campus, ends up testing positive, then decides or is forced to stay on campus to recover (such as by being refused entry on an airplane), the college would then certainly have the authority to dictate that student’s isolation protocol.

This policy of preventing someone from leaving a college campus tests the limits of the state’s control over the virus, and should be reconsidered before it takes effect.

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