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Public Health Update and Status of In-Person Activities
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:
Since early last week, when we first detected an emerging cluster of COVID-19 positive cases among students living off-campus, the Syracuse University Public Health Team and the Onondaga County Health Department have worked aggressively and urgently to mitigate the potential for additional exposures within our campus community. I’m writing today to provide you an update on those efforts and our current health and safety situation.
Containing the Cluster
We are cautiously optimistic that we have undercut the potential for significant additional exposures within our campus community. Results from enhanced surveillance testing over the past week suggest that infections linked to the off-campus cluster have not spread to the on-campus residence halls, or to the faculty and staff population. Further, our rate of new positive infection has meaningfully declined from the very high levels we experienced last week.
While our current active case count is at its highest since the onset of the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of those cases are directly or indirectly linked to the off-campus cluster event. In fact, 79 percent of all COVID-19 cases we have confirmed since the start of the academic semester have been traced to off-campus living and off-campus activities. It is also true that since the start of the academic semester, we have yet to document any linkage between a COVID-19 case and exposure that occurred in a classroom or in the Barnes Center.
Right now, our surveillance testing and new infection data is trending in the right direction. That said, we encourage all members of the campus community to remain vigilant and to participate in our surveillance testing program by visiting a testing site at your convenience.
Lifting Restrictions on Some Activities
Given the data and findings above, beginning on Friday, Oct. 16, we will lift some of the previously announced restrictions on in-person student activities that were implemented as a part of our strategy to contain the off-campus COVID cluster. These actions include:
- University-sponsored in-person student activities, where gatherings do not exceed 25 participants, can resume. This includes all student organization and University-sponsored events, such as Orange After Dark and University Union events.
- Normal operations at the Barnes Center at The Arch (and all satellite indoor and outdoor recreation facilities and activities) and Tennity Ice Pavilion can resume.
- Other school/college/student organization-sponsored events, again where gatherings do not exceed 25 participants, can resume.
Some Restrictions Remain; Students Referred for Conduct Charges
As previously stated, 79 percent of all COVID-19 cases this semester are directly tied to off-campus housing units and off-campus gatherings. Further, over just the past 10 days, 98 percent of all new COVID infections are directly tied to off-campus housing units and off-campus gatherings. It is clear that with respect to off-campus gatherings, we have a challenge and we must do better. Accordingly, our prior action to amend the Stay Safe Pledge related to the size of social gatherings remains in effect for all off-campus activities not organized and sponsored by Syracuse University. Specifically:
- Social gatherings off-campus may not exceed five individuals who do not live together.
- As announced last week, any Syracuse University student listed as a leaseholder or occupant for an off-campus property, including Greek houses, where a gathering of five people or more (excluding those who live together) will be immediately referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR) for review and appropriate action. We have already referred students to OSRR for these kinds of violations and will continue to do so.
We recognize that the pause on student activities we enacted last week, and the limitations that remain in place for off-campus activities, create real challenges for some members of our community. The nature of the global health emergency will continue to impact our ability to interact and engage with each other in many ways. That said, we must remain vigilant. It is directly within our ability to limit the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to make decisions and choices that prioritize the health and well-being of each other and our community.
Be safe. Stay healthy. Be accountable for your choices, and to each other.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation