SUNY Oswego pauses in-person instruction for 2 weeks due to climbing COVID cases

Coronavirus

OSWEGO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — On Friday, SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley announced that in-person learning would be paused for 14 days, beginning September 19, and the college would move to remote instruction for the next two weeks.

“While we have not reached the infection rate thresholds of the 100 individuals or 5% of the total on-campus population specified by the New York State Department of Health in the ‘Interim Guidance for Higher Education during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,’ after consultation with SUNY Chancellor James Malatras, we have decided to stop face-to-face classes voluntarily.  We are getting so close to the cap of 100 it seems inevitable we will pass it before September 25. With 8 days to go, SUNY Oswego is reporting 82 positive cases. In that light, we determined that taking a pause in order to manage the virus with the goal of containing it on our campus is best for our entire college community,” Stanley said in a statement on the college’s website.

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Malatras and Stanley said making the transition going into a new week is less disruptive to classes and is a smoother transition to make for students and staff.

Stanley went on to say the campus is not shutting down and they are not sending the students home. On Monday, September 21, all students and staff will be tested for COVID-19.

As long as the spread of COVID-19 is controlled, in-person learning is expected to resume on Monday, October 5.

The entire letter from Stanley is below:

September 18, 2020

Dear Members of the SUNY Oswego Campus Community, 
Today, I am announcing that SUNY Oswego is taking the proactive action of entering into a temporary pause of in-person learning and moving to fully remote instruction for 14 days, beginning tomorrow, Sept. 19.  While we have not reached the infection rate thresholds of the 100 individuals or 5% of the total on-campus population specified by the New York State Department of Health in the “Interim Guidance for Higher Education during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,” after consultation with SUNY Chancellor James Malatras, we have decided to stop face-to-face classes voluntarily.  We are getting so close to the cap of 100 it seems inevitable we will pass it before September 25. With 8 days to go, SUNY Oswego is reporting 82 positive cases. In that light, we determined that taking a pause in order to manage the virus with the goal of containing it on our campus is best for our entire college community.

I want to stress that moving to remote learning does not mean we are closing the campus or shutting down operations. More importantly, we are not sending our students home.  SUNY Oswego is entering a 14-day pause of in-person instruction to ramp up efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 and will work carefully and intensely towards the goal of “restarting” our in-person learning at the conclusion of the two-week period, with face-to-face classes resuming on October 5.  

Last Sunday, I announced very strict curbs to activity that might spread the virus with severe penalties attached to violations of those restrictions.  In fact, in response to unacceptable levels of transmission of COVID -19 on the SUNY Oswego campus, we followed every one of the actions listed in the New York State Pause guidance except stopping face-to-face classes. We deeply value the benefits to students of in-person learning and we know classes are monitored with students wearing masks and distancing, and the rooms and furniture are disinfected. However, to give containment our very best efforts, we need to comply fully with the guidance and suspend in-person classes.  

Below are important information items that will guide all of us through this 14-day pause.  

  • All instruction (at both the main campus and Syracuse campus) will be delivered online and in a remote learning format.  All hybrid and face-to-face classes will shift to online.  Our Provost and faculty have prepared for this contingency and will be in touch with our students.
  • Residential students shall remain on campus in their current housing locations.  All students, both on campus and off campus, are required to limit their movements to essential needs only (e.g., attend their jobs, medical appointments, access food).
  • Students in quarantine and isolation by order of the Oswego County Health Department will be cared for and remain in their current locations until they are released by the Health Department.
  • Students will continue to have access to labs, studio work, and research activities that will continue to be available in existing formats as directed by faculty.
  • Health services, robust internet and dedicated student services will continue to be provided to our students with enhanced virtual programming to keep us all connected and engaged.
  • All extracurricular programs, and other non-essential student activities have been suspended.
  • All operations of the college will continue, with essential personnel reporting to serve our students.
  • Faculty will shift to fully remote instruction during the pause.  Face-to-face instruction will return when the college receives approval to “restart” in-person classes.
  • Non-essential employees should continue to work as agreed upon in their supervisor-approved work plans.  SUNY Oswego will continue to strive to reduce density on campus with a workforce that does not exceed 50%.
  • Increased testing:  We will continue our aggressive surveillance testing throughout the pause and carefully monitor the health and safety of our entire campus community. We will re-test all our students—on-campus residential students, off-campus and commuter students—over the next two weeks.

Our students residing on campus should remain on campus, and continue their studies during this 14-day pause.  With masks, comprehensive distancing rules and cleaning protocols, the campus is safe and provides a robust technical environment for remote learning. As medical professionals warn, traveling home and back to campus can spread the disease in both locations.  Further, we do not have the capacity to house or monitor precautionary quarantine for all students upon their return.  Therefore, any student who elects to leave campus during this time will have card access removed and will not be eligible to return to campus housing.  

Last weekend SUNY Oswego suspended many on-campus activities that the New York State Department of Health’s interim guidance suggests as part of a 14-day pause —including athletics, extracurricular programs, in-person dining, and other non-essential student activities. Please refer to my September 13 campus message.

We will be closely monitoring students in Health Department-ordered quarantine and isolation and assessing new positive cases that surface.  After the 14-day suspension of in-person learning, if SUNY Oswego has demonstrated that community spread of COVID-19 has been effectively contained, we fully expect to be authorized to reopen for in-person learning and face-to-face classes on Monday, Oct. 5.

I want to thank every member of our campus community for your dedication and resiliency in this difficult time—the vast majority of our students who have been following the rules and have helped us bring our positive cases down in recent days—our faculty and professionals who apply all their energy and effort to teaching and mentoring our students and achieving our mission—our staff on the front lines of providing essential services and direct care.  This is our time to rebound and come out of this pause even stronger and healthier than before.  Let’s encourage each other to take all precautions and do the right thing.

Thank you.

Deborah F. Stanley
President 


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