February 12, 2021
Please read this email in full, as there is important information for everyone to be aware of.
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, some other services 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. 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 was social gatherings and the inconsistent use of face coverings.
In addition, the Lougheed Learning Commons will also open, beginning on Monday, February 15. The Bear Shuttle is still set to resume its full normal schedule on Monday as well, with all of the COVID restrictions still in place. Please remember, students must show their symptoms tracker results (which will appear “green” if you have tested negative and do not currently report any symptoms) in order to enter classrooms, the Learning Commons and the Bear Shuttle.
What happens next depends on you
We can’t emphasize this enough. If we want to have a safe and successful semester, everyone has to do their part. If we don’t get this spread under control early, we may not ever be able to open up those in-person activities that we all miss so much. Now is not the time to let up your guard. It is imperative that everyone follow the BEAR COVID-19 Pledge, and especially critical that you:
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 one, or by knotting and tucking the ear loops of a surgical mask to make it fit more snugly.
Practice social distancing. No gatherings of any kind are allowed, and no visitors are allowed either. We know this is hard. Dealing with a surge in serious illness due to COVID is harder.
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 every day, and if you are feeling ill at all, stay home and stay away from others. Student Health Services will let you know the procedures for getting tested if you are symptomatic.
Stay local. You must remain in the North Country region throughout the semester, in order to prevent further spread of the virus around the state and in our community.
The stakes are high
Don’t forget, if we can’t get the spread under control now, it puts our entire campus and community at risk. For students who violate the public health expectations, it could also put you in jeopardy of strict measures under SUNY’s uniform sanctions on student COVID-19 violations. Students who are found responsible for such violations may at a minimum no longer be allowed to attend in-person classes, and in some cases such findings could result in suspension or expulsion.
Required weekly testing sign-up
The required student surveillance tests will be held again on Monday, February 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in the Barrington Student Union Multipurpose Room. All local and on-campus students are required to be tested every week, under SUNY policy. This includes students who live within 15 miles of campus, even if all of your classes are virtual. You can sign up for next week’s test here.
As you may have heard, Governor Cuomo has announced the expansion of COVID-19 vaccination eligibility in New York State to include individuals with comorbidities and underlying medical conditions, beginning on Monday, February 15. Many students may qualify for this next round of vaccinations. We will continue to share information on this as we receive it. If you already qualify for the vaccine because of your occupation or age, you may 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
Interim Dean of Students