September 4, 2020
Dear Students and Colleagues:
While we work diligently to prevent the spread of COVID-19 both on campus and in our community, one of the most powerful tools we have is data, so we can adjust our approach and learn from experiences here and elsewhere in real time. To that end, SUNY Potsdam will be conducting ongoing surveillance testing of our on-campus and local students this semester. We are also keeping a close eye on what is happening locally and across the state, in particular at our fellow SUNY campuses.
Many of you have reached out with concerns about the situation unfolding at SUNY Oneonta. That campus is responding swiftly to a large number of positive cases, which mostly stemmed from unsafe and unsanctioned off-campus parties, and has initiated a move to virtual learning. We are thinking of our fellow SUNY colleagues and students as they make these necessary but difficult decisions.
While at SUNY Potsdam, we can currently count our positive cases on one hand, that does not mean that we are out of the woods. The situation that happened at Oneonta can happen here, or any university across the state.
Likewise, even though St. Lawrence County continues to have a low level of cases overall, we have been told by the Public Health Department that most of the new cases locally are related to unmasked social gatherings and individuals not consistently wearing face coverings.
As I have shared, the most critical component of this goal is for everyone to do their parts. We are all in this, together. As we head into the weekend, I want to remind everyone that we cannot let our guard down.
For students, we know you are all eager to be with your friends and experience a normal college life, but you have to do it responsibly. Your decisions can impact the lives of others. This is not a normal time on our campus, in the North Country, or the state.
And for everyone, a reminder that you must continue to wear a face covering at all times when on campus or in public, practice social distancing, and not attend or host unsafe social gatherings. This isn’t just about you—this is about everyone around you.
We will be conducting surveillance testing throughout the remainder of the fall semester for all students who have a reason to be on campus or who live within 15 miles from campus. Testing is key to quickly identifying positive cases and taking the necessary steps to avoid a large spread. Details on this process will be sent to students in the coming days. Students who do not comply with the surveillance testing will be asked to go home and complete their studies virtually. We take this that seriously.
Over the next few days, our Emergency Response Resource Group (ERRG) will be closely reviewing the situation at SUNY Oneonta to see if there are more lessons we can learn from their experience. While Governor Cuomo announced the conditions under which a SUNY institution would need to move to virtual learning, we will also be identifying campus-level benchmarks that correlate to our available resources. We continue to closely monitor both local and statewide case details and work closely with the St. Lawrence County Public Health department.
Let’s stay healthy together.
Kristin G. Esterberg, Ph.D.