Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families: The start of the spring semester is quickly approaching, and many in our community are working diligently to prepare for the return of our students and to safely resume in-person teaching and learning. We…
COVID-19 Update: Travel Reminder | In-Person Learning | Health and Safety
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:
I am writing today on behalf of the Syracuse University Public Health Team, to address the subject of travel outside Central New York, and provide you an update related to the current health and safety situation on campus.
Travel Outside Central New York
In prior communications, I have highlighted the increasing prevalence of COVID infection in locations away from New York State, and risk of “importing” an infection to our campus associated with travel to another state. It is now the case that travel to some locations within the state—even some a short car ride away from campus—represents a health and safety risk to our campus and Central New York community.
For example, over the past week, the New York State Department of Health has identified a dramatic spike in the COVID-19 test positivity rate in 20 New York state counties and municipalities. These include:
- Rockland County
- Orange County
- Westchester County
- Various locations in the five boroughs of New York City
- Broome County, including the City of Binghamton
As I shared earlier this week, the public health investigation into our current cluster of COVID-19 infection on campus suggests that the initial exposure responsible for the vast majority of current COVID cases on our campus, stemmed from an individual’s travel to Binghamton.
As you consider plans for the weekend, we ask you to please be smart, be safe and stay local.
In-Person Learning to Continue
In addition, I want to provide an update related to the New York State metrics that would require us to pause all in-person learning. As of the 4 p.m. reporting deadline to the New York State Department of Health, Syracuse University has confirmed 80 COVID-positive diagnostic test results during the current 14-day reporting period (Sept. 26–Oct. 9). This count is inclusive of all members of our community (students, faculty and staff). As a reminder, exceeding 100 positive test results during this period would trigger us to pause in-person learning.
Given that Syracuse University’s total number of COVID-positive test results has not exceeded 100, we will not transition to online only learning at this time. However, for the time being, the University’s earlier decision to pause on-campus student activities remains in effect.
Health and Safety Situation
Of the current 76 active COVID-19 cases among members of our residential campus community, the vast majority are among students who live in off-campus housing. It is the assessment of the Public Health Team that approximately 68 of those cases are directly or indirectly linked to one or more off-campus parties held late last week. We continue to engage in contact tracing, alongside the Onondaga County Health Department, to isolate this cluster from the rest of the campus and Syracuse community. We are cautiously optimistic that the quick and aggressive action we have taken has mitigated the potential for significant additional infection outside this cluster. Preliminary data from our ongoing surveillance testing program, inclusive of faculty and staff, suggests little evidence of spread from the off-campus cluster to the population of students and employees living and working on campus. While we are certainly not out of the woods, the data does suggest—if we remain vigilant and compliant—that it is within our ability to contain the current outbreak.
As we receive additional testing and COVID surveillance data over the next few days, and if that data suggests we have effectively contained the current cluster of COVID infection, we will reassess the current pause on in-person student activities. Our goal is to resume those in-person activities at the first opportunity it is safe to do so, maintaining the health and wellbeing of our community as our foremost priority.
Thank you and have a safe weekend.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation