New York’s state university has quarantined all students at one of its upstate campuses for two weeks, after 105 people tested positive for COVID-19 following a series of parties.
The Oneonta site, 165 miles north of New York City, is one of 64 campuses run by the State University of New York (SUNY). Around 3,000 students are based there.
On Sunday the chancellor, Jim Malatras, visited the campus and announced that it would be on lockdown for two weeks, until September 13.
SUNY’s Oneonta campus went into lockdown at 9pm on Sunday for two weeks
Andrew Cuomo has sent a ‘COVID SWAT team’ to SUNY Oneonta to deal with the outbreak
Footage on social media appeared to show a large number of partying students, packed indoors and not wearing face masks.
Five students in Oneonta have been suspended for holding parties, which breaks the college rules.
Three campus organizations have been suspended for staging gatherings.
‘We’re going to be tough not because we want to ruin their fun, but this is a different time and this goes to what other campuses have been doing,’ said Malatras.
He said they were alerted to the problem last week, and found 20 cases of coronavirus.
By Friday that had jumped to 71, and by Sunday it was 105.
Oneonta is a liberal arts college in New York where 3,000 students are currently enrolled
The university on Sunday said that 105 students have tested positive for COVID-19
Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, said on Sunday he was sending a ‘SWAT team’ of 71 contact tracers and eight case investigators to the campus.
New York State will also open three free, rapid testing sites in the city of Oneonta. The sites will be open to all city residents by appointment, and results back in 15 minutes.
‘Colleges are the canary in the coal mine,’ he said.
Jim Malatras, chancellor of SUNY, announced the news at the Oneonta campus on Sunday
‘A three per cent infection rate is high in a congregate situation – similar to a dense urban environment where you have people taking public transportation.
‘I think the Chancellor is doing the exact right thing at Oneonta and I think he’s taking the right actions across SUNY, and I think the private colleges should really follow the example.’
Cuomo warned that private colleges needed to be equally vigilant, or else risk being shut down.
‘Private colleges, if you are slow to enforce the rules, then the virus will spread and then you will have to take more dramatic action,’ he said.
‘If a private college doesn’t take the dramatic action, the local health department can make the college take close-down procedures.’
The new rules mean that students will be allowed to go outside, but will not be allowed to congregate in groups of three or more people.
College facilities, including the library, Hunt Union and classroom buildings, will be closed to students, and students will not be permitted to leave campus.
Dining services will deliver meals to the residence halls, and all classes will be taught online.
Students were sent emails about the lockdown and alerts went out on social media
Oneonta’s classes will all be taught online, and the university buildings will be largely closed
Barbara Jean Morris, president of the university, said: ‘To the vast majority of our students who have done everything the college has asked, taken precautions to safeguard the community outside of campus, and consistently been respectful of one another, I am sorry.
‘I know this is not the start of the semester any of us had envisioned.’
SUNY’s Oneonta campus is not the only one facing challenges. SUNY Plattsburgh, 300 miles north of New York City, suspended 43 students on August 21 after they were caught partying at a closed park.
On social media, some students were questioning how the Oneonta lockdown would work in practise.
‘Got an email saying we place orders and food is delivered to the residence hall, starting at Lunch today,’ tweeted Thadias McCoy.
‘But I don’t know when that is, where to place an order or what I am able to order.’
Some students were asking how they were expected to get their food during lockdown
Other students told local media they hoped this would end the outbreak.
Junior Kevin Davidson of South Glens Falls said he was shocked at how quickly it spread.
‘I was surprised, taken off guard,’ he told News Channel 2.
‘Last we knew it was 29 cases Friday, now it’s 105 and we’re shutting down.
‘The way these things grow is exponentially and that’s concerning. I think the shut down, or pause as they prefer to call it, will help the spread but it could be a long shut down. It could be, I really have no idea.’
The mother of one student, Laura, was angry that her daughter had fallen ill, despite not going to any parties.
She said she was driving her home, and stopping en route for a test.
Another woman said the students and the management were both to blame.
‘While kids behaved inappropriately, so did administration by not having mandatory Covid testing prior to campus return and f/u testing once settled on campus,’ she said.
‘Unorganized and irresponsible in these unprecedented times! Disappointed!’
The mother of one student said her daughter was sick, and she wanted answers
Another social media said the students and the university had been irresponsible