March 21, 2020
Governor Cuomo has now signed the New York State on PAUSE Executive Order, taking the strongest actions to date to contain the growing spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Among its provisions, the directive includes a ban on non-essential gatherings of any size and for any reason, and a 100 percent closure of non-essential businesses, beginning tomorrow night, Sunday, March 22, at 8 p.m. SUNY Potsdam, like other c ollege campuses, is considered essential, for the purposes of educating our students and completing the semester in a distance learning format.
As we advised you on Wednesday, wherever possible, we encourage you to work from home, and children of employees should not be on campus. Only essential employees should be present on campus. For information about essential/non-essential employee status and the new telecommuting policy, please see our last update. Faculty members who need to use campus facilities in order to provide their classes in a distance learning format are considered essential.
In compliance with the new regulations and with our stricter restrictions for campus access, I sent a message to all students earlier today, reiterating that only the small number of students who have been approved for a hardship waiver are allowed to be on campus, beginning at 8 p.m. tomorrow. All other students will have their campus swipe card access disabled after that time.
At this point, out of the 1,545 students who had resided on campus at the beginning of the semester, approximately 95 have been approved for a hardship waiver, because they either (1) do not have a safe or appropriate alternative location, (2) are international students who are unable to return home, and/or (3) have limited or no access to technology at home. Of the 95 students who have been approved to remain on campus, the majority have already been here through the extended Spring Break, due to their housing hardship.
Residential students will be housed in Knowles Hall in single accommodations. The few returning residential students who are arriving from areas with a high incidence of COVID-19 are required to complete a 14-day precautionary self-isolation period, per Public Health Department guidelines. This precaution is to ensure that students take every measure possible to avoid the transmission of the coronavirus, in case they are contagious. Students completing self-isolation will be provided hand sanitizer, and they are expected to follow all protocols for social distancing and hygiene. Students will not be able to have gatherings and students will not be allowed to leave campus, or have any visitors. Student Health Services will be monitoring these students to help them understand how to track their health, and what to do if they begin to experience any symptoms.
We understand that classes are now beginning again in a dramatically different format and in a changed world. Most of our campus community members will either be working or studying from home for the foreseeable future. Those events and activities which used to bring us so close together are now postponed or canceled, or offered on-line. Downtown, many businesses and institutions are quiet, and our K-12 schools are closed. Just as much, there is a great deal of fear and uncertainty.
I ask you to take heart during this difficult time. While this situation is unprecedented, we know that we have overcome adversity before, and we will do so now. I ask you to p lease, seek out and rely on facts during this pandemic. We are updating our COVID-19 website regularly, and we encourage you to visit this and other reliable sites, such as the Centers for Disease Control. We realize the situation and regulations are changing nearly every day. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. And please continue to be there for each other—whether virtually, over the phone or just in spirit.
Given these very changed circumstances, we appreciate your hard work to make the end of the semester as safe and successful as possible for everyone. In the face of such difficulty, remember that we are doing all we can protect the health and safety of our entire community. Thank you for all you are doing.
Kristin G. Esterberg, Ph.D.