126 members of SUNY community now positive, 77 on campus
OSWEGO — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at SUNY Oswego continued to rise, topping 100 on Saturday.
Students and faculty returned to campus in late August, and what started as a handful of positive cases has now grown to 126, according to the Oswego County Health Department. Total countywide numbers have not been reported over the weekend, but health officials said there were 92 active cases Friday and Saturday confirmed 43 additional members of the SUNY Oswego community have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Cases at SUNY Oswego, and in turn Oswego County, have been steadily on the rise for more than a week.
County health officials Friday reported 415 total cases since the pandemic first reached Oswego County in March, with 92 current active cases. On Sept. 4, there were 332 overall cases and 35 were active, according to previous reports from the county Health Department.
“We are working closely with the college to identify and notify all close contacts of these patients,” Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang said in a Saturday statement.
State officials previously established protocol that would move directly to an all-online learning model if more than 100 on campus students were infected with the virus. County health officials reported Saturday 77 individuals on campus have tested positive for the virus, with an additional 48 individuals off campus testing positive.
Prior to Thursday, the previous high number of active cases in Oswego County (61) was hit on June 25 after an outbreak at an apple processing facility in Oswego Town. State and local health officials tested more than 100 employees and many of their contacts and discovered a cluster that reportedly resulted in more than 80 cases in Oswego and Onondaga counties.
Shortly after SUNY Oswego students returned to campus, the number of cases started to slowly increase before more than tripling over the past week.
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley said the school is taking “several immediate and significant actions to mitigate the spread of the virus both on and off campus,” and moving to institute a number of new measures to protect members of campus and the neighboring community.
“We have more than doubled the available quarantine and isolation rooms by re-opening the newly renovated Funnelle Hall and increasing the total quarantine rooms to 208 and isolation rooms to 144,” Stanley said in a statement. “We are mobilizing a new and expanded surveillance testing operation in a heightened effort to identify COVID-19 on our campus.”
SUNY Oswego also paused all athletics activity, including team meetings and workouts, for at least 14 days.
“And we continue to remind the entire campus community thatour actions are critical to the safety of everyone in our community,” Stanley said.
County health officials urged Oswego city and town residents to take extra preventive measures as many students are living in the city and town. Huang earlier this week said residents should not consider the college as a separate entity, but a part of the larger Oswego community.
“Oswego County considers SUNY Oswego a part of our larger community and welcomes these students back to live among us,” Huang said in a Saturday statement. “However, as the disease keeps spreading, both on and off campus students and residents in surrounding communities are encouraged to take extra efforts to contain the disease.”
Huang said it's imperative that community members wear a face covering and practice diligent handwashing and social distancing, including limiting interactions among family and friends who do not live together.
“We all must take personal responsibility for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” he said.
Since the first positive cases in the county were announced March 22, Oswego County has largely avoided any major outbreaks, but more than 415 individuals have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past nearly six months. More than 40,000 tests have been conducted in total, according to county data, and the overwhelming majority of individuals testing positive have recovered.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow earlier this week noted the increase in positive cases did not come as a surprise, and pointed out the Port City is a community of 18,000 that just introduced another 7,000-plus people largely from other areas around the state.
“We’ve seen the spike in cases, as expected, and the real test will be in our response and the response of the student community,” the mayor said Thursday, adding SUNY Oswego and the city have been “working in lockstep” and taking the necessary steps to curb the spread of the virus.
Stanley earlier this week sent a message to students, faculty and staff to address the increased number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but noted the infection rate on campus remained low.
“We have a very low infection rate and are faring better than many other campuses across the state and around the nation at this time,” Stanley said in a Monday email, adding campus officials are “closely monitoring results and taking appropriate action in consultation with the Oswego County Health Department.”
Barlow said this week the city and college were working together and “engaging the virus from all ends and watching the data.” He said the focus should be to ensure young adults do not gather in large groups, stop hosting parties and “stop the spread that is taking place throughout these social circles.”
Port City and SUNY officials have worked together to cut down on large social gatherings and encourage proper social distancing and other protective measures in recent weeks. Barlow said city officials “proactively went door to door to persuade students and young adults to not get together in the first place.”
For those who haven’t heeded the warnings, Barlow said the Oswego Police Department (OPD) has been patrolling neighborhoods and addressing parties and mass gatherings, breaking up parties when discovered and issuing fines to the hosts. He also noted OPD is forwarding the names of attendees to SUNY Oswego.
Positive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in each reporting area in Oswego County, which include all the towns and cities, according to county data. The cities of Oswego and Fulton have the highest number of confirmed cases, followed by Oswego Town, Granby and Hastings.
Health officials urge residents to take these precautions:
• Wear a face mask or covering over your nose and mouth.
• Keep six feet from other people.
• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home if you are sick unless you are seeking health care.
• Call your healthcare provider from home if you are experiencing symptoms such as a fever,
cough or shortness of breath.
• Call 911 if you are experiencing life-threatening conditions.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, chills, repeated shaking with chills, gastrointestinal illness and new loss of taste or smell.