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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

COVID-19 Update: As cases continue to rise, we need our Bears to do their part

February 19, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

This week’s surveillance testing and individual testing through Student Health Services resulted in an additional 19 positives, bringing our total active positive number to 41. A majority of these cases are off-campus students, and the rate of increase is concerning. There was one positive employee case identified through surveillance testing this week.

We are closely tracking the spread, as well as our available quarantine and isolation space, among many other factors. As we shared in yesterday’s Faculty Senate question and answer session, the Emergency Response and Resource Group closely follows a number of metrics and makes recommendations on campus operations in light of the pandemic.

After speaking with SUNY System and the Chancellor, SUNY Potsdam has been advised that we do not exceed the state thresholds at this time to necessitate a two-week precautionary pause period on our campus. Governor Cuomo announced today that the New York State Department of Health has adjusted its guidelines for when colleges and universities would be required to go on pause. For campuses like ours that test at least 25% of on-campus students, faculty and staff each week (a bar that we easily exceed, as we test 100% of these groups and more off campus as well), we would be required to go on pause if our positivity rate exceeds 5% during a rolling 14-day time period. For reference, at this time, our current 14-day rolling positivity rate is 1.23%. However, we will continue to track this closely and are in constant communication with both public health and SUNY officials about our situation as it continues to develop.

Based on our contact tracing and reporting from our campus community, we know that small social gatherings seem to be driving this spread. The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards is investigating multiple policy violations by individuals and groups. Under the SUNY Uniform Sanctions, we have to take such violations very seriously, with strict consequences—something that I just reminded our student body of in a message to students.

As you know, in-person instruction has not been a major driver of the pandemic on SUNY campuses. This is likely because our preventive measures are so strongly enforced—like wearing face coverings, completing your symptoms tracker, maintaining your distance, and sanitizing hands and surfaces. We will however be keeping a close eye on the numbers and facts on the ground here on our campus and in our community.

We know that the vast majority of students are doing their part and being responsible. No matter how difficult “pandemic fatigue” is, COVID-19 is a serious threat and one that we cannot take lightly. If you hear of a possible issue or violation, please contact us at community@potsdam.edu (and/or community@clarkson.edu if you are unsure which campus an individual is affiliated with).

We rely on each other to help enforce the public health expectations—and to help support our students, who are stressed and struggling, given the situation. For those of you who have reached out to offer your assistance to help with contact tracing or to support our students in mandatory quarantine and isolation, thank you so much. And to all, thank you for continuing to uphold each other’s health and well-being. We will continue to keep you updated.

Sincerely,

Kristin G. Esterberg, Ph.D.
President