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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

All of us, together.

September 2, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I want to wish you all well, no matter where you are, as we kick off the Fall 2020 semester here at SUNY Potsdam. While this first week of classes is unlike any other we have experienced, our care and concern for one another is still at the heart of what makes our campus community so special.

To all of you who have transitioned back to campus, thank you. To all those who are teaching and working remotely, thank you. To our essential workers who have been hard at work for months to keep our campus running, thank you. It is thanks to all of your efforts that Potsdam is prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

As of this writing, SUNY Potsdam has tested 1,991 returning students leading up to the start of the Fall 2020 semester, and so far, we have received 1,114 negative results and zero positive ones. You may have heard that our testing provider, Enzo Labs, notified us that they are experiencing delays in processing tests. Those students who are still waiting have been reminded to continue to self-quarantine until they receive their results. Our case details page is updated daily, so please continue to check it for the latest numbers.

David Acker, chief executive officer of St. Lawrence Health Systems, recently wrote an open letter open letter to the Associated Colleges campus communities, which I am pleased to share with you. In it, he shares, “While no area of the country will be able to offer a guaranty of safety until the vaccine arrives, St. Lawrence County with continued vigilance will remain, on a relative scale, as safe an environment as one can find in which to live, to work, and be enriched by education.”

It’s going to take all of us, working together, to make this semester safe and successful. We each need to do our part to keep our campus and our communities safe.

We will soon begin a  surveillance testing program for our campus for the remainder of the semester. Undoubtedly, it is only a matter of time until we start seeing some positive results on our campus. We are prepared for this circumstance, and have dedicated isolation spaces in our residence halls for on-campus students. The St. Lawrence County Public Health Department would work with any off-campus students on isolation measures, just as they would for local residents, in addition to the work they do on contact tracing for all cases.

We know that one of the most important actions we can take as a campus and community is to avoid unsafe social gatherings in violation of physical distancing guidelines. We have already seen other campuses in SUNY and across the country shut down within a week, all because of positive cases stemming from mass gatherings and student parties. We will take any violations of our BEAR COVID-19 Pledge very seriously. If you hear of a gathering that you think could violate the guidelines, please let us know by sending a detailed message to and/or (if you are unsure which campus students may be affiliated with). There are many activities students and campus community members can engage in safely, and we encourage you to check the Get Involved site regularly.

There’s a lot to remember this semester, and we know it will take some getting used to.

So here are some additional reminders:

  • Don’t forget to bring your face covering with you, wherever you go. You’ll need to wear it in all public spaces where you can’t social distance. If you forget or misplace your face covering, we have extras available in classrooms. You can also call Environmental Health and Safety Officer Patrick O’Brien at (315) 267-2596. He or someone in his office will bring a mask to you.
  • Remember to fill out your symptoms tracker one hour before reporting to campus. If you add the free Rave Guardian campus safety app to your smartphone, you can fill out the questionnaire there by clicking “Online Resources.”
  • Don’t forget to check students’ symptoms tracker results if needed. Teaching faculty who are leading in-person classes should ask students to show their symptoms tracker results upon entering the classroom. The results should list today’s date. Designated staff in other areas of campus may request that students show their tracker results before entering buildings such as the Lougheed Learning Commons.
  • Wash and sanitize your hands frequently. Take advantage of our new hand sanitizing stations all across campus.
  • Disinfect shared surfaces when needed. We will have disinfectant in classrooms and labs to wipe down high-traffic areas. We have hired more cleaning staff, but we need everyone’s help with more frequent disinfection.
  • Follow directions. You’ll notice new signs across campus, indicating one-way directions and instructions for social distancing in various areas. Keep an eye out for these, as they may be different from how you are used to getting around!

Please, remember to treat each other with the respect and decency we all have come to expect here at SUNY Potsdam. Be patient with one another as we get used to these measures, and kindly remind others of the expectations if needed. We can’t do it without you.

I want to once again thank Dr. Bernadette Tiapo for her service to the campus, as leaves us to join SUNY Oneonta. I will have updates to share soon regarding the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the appointment of an Interim Chief Diversity Officer.

Interim Vice President for Business Affairs Keith Kaplan will lead a virtual town hall meeting to discuss SUNY Potsdam’s financial health and our budget for the 2021-21 fiscal year, on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 4:30 p.m. An email will be sent out that morning with the Zoom link.

Thank you for all of your efforts. I look forward to seeing you soon, whether virtually or in person, and wish you a safe and healthy start to your semester.


Kristin G. Esterberg, Ph.D.
SUNY Potsdam