OSWEGO — In the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases this week, SUNY Oswego announced Sunday morning it would implement a series of “urgent and severe campus actions.”
State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley stood as a united front while taking questions from the media at the Marano Campus Center and the pair at once praised the actions of a “large majority” of Laker students and promised swift and serious penalties for violations of coronavirus mitigation methods.
“It is beyond time for you to do the right thing,” Stanley said in a direct appeal to students, urging them to “abide by all directives and safety measures issued by the college, city and state.”
According to public records, SUNY Oswego has so far tested more than 6,300 students as of noon Sunday, dating back to mid-August. The total of cumulative cases (130) has risen to an “unacceptable” level, Stanley said, and out of an “abundance of caution” her administration is enacting new statutes on behavior and punishment in an attempt to snuff a larger outbreak.
All athletics activities are suspected for the remainder of the fall 2020 season and any student-athlete who violates the order will lose their eligibility, Stanley said. All visitation in residence halls is now prohibited, as is in-person on-campus dining. Hosts and attendees of large group activities will face “student conduct sanctions including automatic suspension or loss of Greek life status.”
College officials said 10 Laker students have already been suspended for violations.
“This administration will come down hard on people who are partying, who are in clear violation of the rules,” Malatras said, noting that during his Wednesday visit “every student” he saw was “wearing masks, socially distancing and just trying to get their studies done.”
“Most students are doing the right thing, and it’s a shame they’re in this position and feeling this anxiety when we’ve finally been able to open up our campuses again,” he said.
Despite the mounting COVID cases, classes are set to continue Monday, Sept. 14 as scheduled. Stanley and Malatras clarified the Department of Health’s policy on campus case thresholds: whenever 100 individuals or 5 percent of a school’s on-campus population tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period (whichever is lower), colleges must transition all in-person learning to remote formats, and limit on-campus activities for a period of 14 days.
“As of Friday, Sept. 11, at the conclusion of our first 14-day period, SUNY Oswego had 82 positive cases counting toward this NYS-issued 100-count threshold,” Stanley said. “Therefore, no change in instruction status was applied. We began our second 14-day period yesterday, Sept. 12, which runs through Sept. 25.”
Malatras said last week he was “supremely confident” in SUNY Oswego’s virus control efforts and reinforced that notion Sunday.
“We are taking an action-oriented, zero-tolerance approach and there will be real consequences,” the chancellor said shortly before departing for a visit to SUNY Cortland. “The number one thing in the mind of this administration is health and safety so our students can learn.”