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COVID-19 Update: Infections Rising | Vigilance Needed | Departure Planning and Testing
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:
Our campus community has responded to the many challenges we have faced this semester with selflessness, maturity and grace. Like those we have already overcome, the significant surge in new COVID-19 cases in Onondaga County and across Central New York is yet another challenge that we must confront.
Earlier today, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon reported that the county has confirmed a single day record for new COVID-19 infections. Also today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the New York State Department of Health would be meeting with Central New York officials over the weekend, to discuss potential new restrictions to curb the local spread of COVID-19 in our community. All of this is happening as we are experiencing a concerning increase in student and employee COVID-19 cases on campus—a trend that correlates directly with the growing prevalence of COVID-19 infections across Central New York. Taken together, this is a troubling situation that we must take very seriously.
With these developments in mind, I’m writing to provide critical updates that require all of our attention:
- Details and context related to the increasing prevalence of infections on our campus;
- Be vigilant and take precautions; and
- Plans for departure testing as students prepare to leave campus.
COVID-19 Campus Update
As you are aware, New York State requires that any college campus recording 100 or more positive COVID-19 test results within a 14-day period must pause all in-person activities, including residential instruction. The current 14-day reporting period closed today, and I can share that Syracuse University has not exceeded the threshold that would require a 14-day pause. However, we came dangerously close. What we know is that the data is moving in the wrong direction. As of today, we report:
- 98 positive test results between Oct. 23 and Nov. 6
- 79 active cases on campus
- 465 students in directed quarantine
More important than the data is the changing nature of the new cases we are recording on campus. Different from the past, many of these new cases cannot be traced to super-spreader events or one-off activities situated within our campus community. Instead, a great many of the new cases we are confirming are not connected directly to campus activities, but instead stem from numerous sources of exposure across our Central New York community. As such, I ask and implore you to exercise vigilance and adhere to the following procedures and precautions in the context of your daily activities:
- Get tested regularly. The best way to detect the presence of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals is to test, test, test. Our testing is open to all students, faculty and staff and is quick, easy and efficient.
- Stay in Central New York. Even then, if you travel locally and visit public places and spaces, be alert to unsafe conditions.
- Don’t visit other college campuses, and generally limit travel as much as possible.
- Do not host or attend parties or any unsafe gathering, on or off campus.
- Do not invite friends or family members to visit you. Let them know you’ll see them soon enough.
- Wear your mask—always!
- Monitor your health. Experiencing cold-like symptoms? Stay home and call the Barnes Center immediately. If you’re a faculty or staff member, call your primary care physician.
- Get your flu shot! Unless you have a documented exemption, you are expected to get a flu shot.
With just 20 days to go until the semester concludes, we need to recommit ourselves to those procedures and precautions to mitigate the potential for exposure and infection. The current level of COVID-19 infection and spread within our community is both a real and present threat to our ability to stay on campus, and to our individual and collective health.
Departure Planning and Testing
Many of you are planning your travel home for winter break. Before you do, you must participate in one final round of COVID-19 testing. Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11, the Syracuse University Public Health Team will make “departure testing” available in an effort to return our students to their home communities virus-free. Please watch for a message in your inbox with specific details about the testing plan.
Further, it has come to our attention that some of you are making plans to depart the campus earlier than planned. If you choose to do so, that is certainly your right. Our request is that if you plan to depart campus early, you do so safely and responsibly, and in a way that does not jeopardize your health or the local community, or the health of the community and family that will welcome you home. So, if you do plan to depart campus early, please plan on the following:
- For all students (on- and off-campus): Get tested. Formal “departure testing” starts on Nov. 11; however, we will provide earlier testing to those who require it. Simply visit the stadium testing center, Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., at least three days prior to your planned departure.
- For students living on campus: Please review this list carefully and take appropriate action:
- Follow the steps on the checklists provided to you by the Office of Student Living.
- Take all items of sentimental or significant value with you when you depart campus.
- Pack your remaining loose belongings neatly and leave them on or near your bed. Boxes will be provided for you. Label the boxes, as well as large belongings or wall hangings that are left in your room, with your full name.
- Clean and defrost your microfridge. Dispose of all perishable items. Remember, you will be away for two months.
- Turn in your key! Students living in residence halls should return their keys to their main desk. Students living on South Campus should return their keys (bedroom, apartment and mailbox) to Goldstein Student Center Room 210 or to the key drop box located outside the building. If you do not turn in your key before you leave, you will be charged a lock core change fee.
- After the rooms are cleared, University staff will conduct routine health and safety checks. Charges may be assessed based on room condition.
- If you have additional questions about checkout, please consult our Frequently Asked Questions page.
We have just two and a half weeks to go; if we recommit ourselves to exercising good public health practices, I am confident we can finish this semester together, on campus.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation