SUNY schools shifting to “distance learning” as coronavirus cases rise to 216

Around New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — UPDATE: According to Governor Cuomo there are now 216 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.

The governor says he still expects these numbers to go up as testing continues. With these 43 additional confirmed cases, there are still none in Western New York.

ORIGINAL: With 212 cases of coronavirus now confirmed in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that distance learning will soon be the norm at all SUNY and CUNY schools, starting later this month.

Cuomo says the schools must make the shift by March 19, and this will last the remainder of the semester.

“There will be some situations where they have programs that must happen on site, like they’re doing a lab or something like that” Cuomo said. “But those will be exceptions. Those will be exceptions to avoid hardships.”

Cuomo says SUNY will accommodate students who are unable to leave campus. Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, said the expectation is that a number of graduation ceremonies in the SUNY system will not take place in person.

Wednesday afternoon, Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner said the school will cancel classes the week of March 14-20 to create a two-week spring break. She hopes that gives faculty enough time to prepare for distance learning.

“Classes will resume via remote instruction only on Monday, March 30,” Conway-Turner said.

The University at Buffalo plans to begin its distance learning when students return from spring break on March 23rd.

“For the past month, the University at Buffalo has been preparing to move to a distance learning model for student instruction in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation,” school officials said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus a pandemic. To date, roughly 5,000 people in the U.S. have been tested for the virus, compared to the 200,000 tested each day in China, or the 15,000 tested daily in South Korea.

New York says it will start contracting with private labs to increase the amount of testing in the state. Cuomo says he spoke with 28 labs on Wednesday alone.

Still, none of the confirmed New York cases are in western New York. That being said, more than 100 people in Erie County have been quarantined, along with seven in Niagara County.

“This is basically pneumonia,” Cuomo said. “When is pneumonia dangerous? When you have an underlying illness.”

The Governor downplayed the fears many have had over the coronavirus, noting the amount of recoveries versus deaths around the world.

Meanwhile, across the border, a doctor at a cancer facility in Hamilton, Ont. has tested positive for the disease. Hamilton is about 50 miles west of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

The 32-year-old woman returned from a trip to Hawaii on Saturday, officials with Hamilton Health Sciences said. She reported to work on Monday, where she treated 14 patients. Hospital staff is working to get in touch with those patients, as well as other personnel members she interacted with that day.

“I think we have to be actually quite proud of this physician,” said Dr. Barry Lumb, physician-in-chief for Hamilton Health Services. “She did not come from a high risk area. she was highly vigilant when she got to work. As she became unwell as the day evolved, she immediately undertook exactly the right things.”

The woman is now self-isolated at her home in Burlington, Ont. There are 42 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ontario as of Wednesday evening.

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