We are disappointed to report that this week’s surveillance testing results have shown a total of 22 positive cases of COVID-19 in our local student body, with 9 cases on campus and 13 cases off campus. There were no positive results in this week’s employee testing. Student Health Services has notified all positive students of their individual results. Anyone who was in close contact with those who have tested positive will be continue to be notified so that they can quarantine, following public health guidelines.
Of these positive results, 15 cases were identified through surveillance testing, and then an additional 7 cases were identified through in-office appointments for close contacts of the original positive cases or for symptomatic individuals. Student Health Services currently has a few more test results pending. Given the trend, we do expect our numbers to continue to rise.
Restrictions to continue
In light of these results, SUNY Potsdam will continue to limit in-person events and activities this week. This is necessary in order to limit the spread of the virus on campus and in our community. We had hoped to be able to open up dining halls, residence hall lounges, recreational spaces and begin to allow some in-person activities beginning this week, but given these test results, we will have to delay further.
In-person classes still to resume
While we have seen an increase in positive cases, SUNY Potsdam does not exceed the thresholds under the New York State guidelines for a pause on in-person instruction and we have been advised by SUNY that we should continue to follow our reopening plan. Therefore, in-person classes are still scheduled to begin on Monday, February 15, as planned. As we saw in the fall semester, face-to-face classes were not associated with COVID transmission; rather, the source of most spread that was seen across the SUNY System was social gatherings and the inconsistent use of face coverings.
As in-person classes resume, it is essential that all in-person instructors take attendance and keep seating charts. All faculty and staff should also ensure that your contact information is up to date with Human Resources in the event that we need to be in touch regarding contact tracing questions. Again, please complete your own symptoms tracker questionnaire each day that you are scheduled to report to campus. If you feel ill at all, stay home and contact Human Resources.
Important measures to take
While Monday, February 15, is a public holiday (President’s Day), classes are still in session and we will still offer employee COVID-19 testing. Due to the holiday, this is voluntary, but all employees who report to campus for any reason are encouraged to self-administer your tests following the protocols and drop off your tests following the new procedure in the Raymond Hall Lobby on Monday. While this week’s testing did not show any new employee cases, we know that the risk of COVID transmission is still very high in St. Lawrence County due to increasing numbers in our area. So we must all remain vigilant:
- Wear a face covering (correctly) in all public spaces. The CDC has released new guidance to ensure that your face coverings provide the most protection, including wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask, or by knotting and tucking the ear loops of a surgical mask to make it fit more snugly. If you need help obtaining surgical masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE) for work, please contact Director of Environmental Health and Safety Patrick O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Practice social distancing. Please be cautious both at work and in your personal lives.
- Wash your hands. We have hand sanitizer stations all across campus to help with this.
- Stay home if you are sick. Complete your symptoms tracker questionnaire every day that you are scheduled to report to campus. If you are feeling ill at all, stay home and away from others and get tested if necessary.
- Stay local. Stay in the North Country region in order to help limit the spread in our community and throughout the state.
New York State continues to update its COVID-19 vaccination eligibility guidelines. As you know, in-person teaching faculty are eligible to receive the vaccine, as are individuals over the age of 65, and those employed in a range of essential/frontline occupations. Governor Cuomo has now announced the expansion of COVID-19 vaccination eligibility in the state to include individuals with comorbidities and underlying medical conditions, also beginning on Monday, February 15. We will continue to share information on this as we receive it. If you qualify for the vaccine because of your occupation, age or medical conditions, you will be able to sign up for an appointment using the state website here: https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/.
We will continue to add more details on our COVID-19 planning and response at www.potsdam.edu/prepared.
Kristin G. Esterberg
Director Human Resources