WNY Colleges, universities planning in high gear for coronavirus

Erie County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–From calling students home from study abroad programs to cancelling upcoming trips, colleges and universities across Western New York are taking action.

But their focus is on preparing for the arrival of coronavirus, rather than taking action to control an outbreak — at least at this point.

We’re having early discussions with the academic community. We’re not there yet, but it’s good to be planful,” said SUNY Buffalo State President Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner.

Colleges in Erie and Niagara counties, like SUNY Buffalo State, are free of students or faculty who have contracted the coronavirus.

But like many organizations in the community, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach.
And using their time to plan for the worst-case scenario — an outbreak on campus.

“It’s good to think about these issues so that in the event that it occurs, you have already created some pathways to handle the issues,” Conway-Turner said.

Buffalo State has three students studying abroad this semester in what are now considered high-risk areas; two in Italy, one in South Korea.

Each of the students was ordered to return to New York State and will be quarantined for the 14-day period suggested by the Centers for Disease Control.

None of them is symptomatic, and none of them hails from Western New York.

Nearby Canisius College has 25 students studying abroad, including a handful in Florence, Italy. They are being asked to return to the states, but are not being mandated.

“Their decision to stay is one that they need to make in consultation with their parents,” said Canisius College President Dr. John Hurley. “But our suggestion is that they take the opportunity now to come home.”

Hurley says most are deciding to stay put.

The University at Buffalo is also putting the decision in the hands of students, but recommending they return to the states. Those in high-risk areas are being asked to follow the same CDC quarantine protocols.

Planning is crucial. And college campuses are taking precautions seriously — including planning for an outbreak on campus. It’s a potential that has many more questions than answers.

“We’re not set up to care for the students when they’re sick or to quarantine them,” Hurley said. “So we’re talking about how that might play out if this gets worse locally.”

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