FREDONIA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Just days before the start of an unprecedented fall semester at SUNY Fredonia, the campus is already dealing with a positive case of COVID-19. Dr. Stephen Kolison, the school’s president, announced the case in a letter to the campus community on Thursday.
The student tested positive this week. They have been isolated off-campus. Students who were exposed are quarantined off campus, Kolison says.
“Even with all the precautions in place, we are faced with the reality that there will inevitably be positive cases on campus,” he wrote.
Students agree. They do not seem to be surprised by the development.
“It was bound to happen eventually,” said Troy Lanski, a freshman, who admitted he was surprised that the virus was discovered on campus so soon.
“With everyone coming from different cities and areas, it’s probably inevitable,” agreed Vanessa Vacanti, a junior.
“I don’t think it is surprising, seeing as a bunch of people come to this campus,” said Caleb Reynolds, a sophomore.
On Friday, nearly every student was walking around campus with a mask on. Despite the lack of surprise over the positive case, Reynolds was wondering whether the semester was at risk.
“I think it’s only a matter of time before it all goes online,” he said. “I’m sure that’s the same thing with a lot of other colleges around the nation.”
“It probably depends on how the next month goes,” said an optimistic Vacanti. “I think we can do it. I think it really depends on whether students are careful about parties and off campus gatherings.”
The mayors of Dunkirk and Fredonia have that same concern. Wilfred Rosas, of Dunkirk, and Doug Essek, of Fredonia, sent a joint letter to students this week.
“For you to stay in Fredonia this semester,” they wrote, “and for all of the hard work and the planning to pay off, you simply cannot host parties.”
The mayors said their police departments would be working with SUNY Fredonia’s Office of Student Conduct to enforce their demand. They reminded students that the college’s Student Code of Conduct “applies to students off campus” and on campus.
“The students need to come back, and as you get older, you are a responsible adult,” said Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel. We need them to be in this situation.”
Wendel and Chautauqua County Director of Health and Human Services Christine Schuyler are in touch with officials on campus. Schuyler’s team is in charge of conducting the contact tracing.
“As far as we know, this has been an isolated incident,” Schuyler said of the positive case at SUNY Fredonia.
“Their School Health Center has been excellent to work with,” she added. “Their administration has been on this.”
Classes at SUNY Fredonia begin on Monday.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.