Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff: Recently the Onondaga County Health Department has reported a notable decline in new COVID infections and hospitalizations across the Central New York region. This positive trend, combined with significantly reduced population density on our…
COVID-19 Update: Reporting Violations | Accurate Testing | Latest Mask Guidance
Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff:
Today we complete the second week of the spring semester. The news is mixed.
The good news is that here in Onondaga County, COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are generally trending down. Further, most of our students, faculty and staff remain committed and accountable to each other, to our neighbors and to the behaviors that mitigate COVID infection and transmission.
At the same time, the COVID infection rate among Syracuse University students living in our off-campus neighborhoods is trending in the wrong direction. The Syracuse University Public Health Team reviews the data every day, and the data does not lie. The overwhelming majority of COVID infection and transmission is isolated to a relatively small segment of students and stems from behaviors happening off campus. To those students, and on behalf of the rest of us, I implore you to consider the ramifications of your choices and actions and how they impact our campus community and our Syracuse neighbors.
By now everyone understands the implications of a COVID outbreak on our ability to sustain in-person learning, continue student activities, reopen the stadium to fans and, down the road even, plan for Commencement activities. Please also understand that a COVID outbreak on our campus has implications for all those who live and work in Central New York. In recent weeks, new student COVID cases at Syracuse University have become a significant contributor to the total COVID cases reported to New York State by Onondaga County. That data is used by New York State to determine the level of public health restriction imposed on all residents, schools and businesses in our county. For them, we must do better.
Today’s message will address:
- Heightened Sanctions for Violations of New York State Gathering Restrictions
- Reporting Stay Safe Pledge Violations
- Get Tested—It’s Required
- Tips for Accurate COVID-19 Testing
- Latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidance on Mask Wearing
- Ways to Minimize Your COVID Risk
- Fitness Centers Occupancy Limits
- Food Services Hours
Heightened Sanctions for Violations of New York State Gathering Restrictions: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health have imposed a statewide restriction on all residential gatherings. Private residential gatherings may not exceed 10 individuals who do not otherwise live together in the same residence. This residential gathering restriction is not new—it has been the law of New York State since November 2020. We have communicated this to students and parents on multiple occasions. That said, over the past three weeks we have witnessed numerous violations, in the form of parties hosted by our students in off-campus neighborhoods.
Be advised that hosting a party that violates the governor’s restriction on private residential gatherings can result in the following consequences:
- Off-Campus Gatherings: Students who host or attend off-campus parties that violate COVID-emergency health ordinances may be issued an appearance ticket by the Syracuse Police Department. If you receive an appearance ticket, you will be required to appear in Onondaga County Criminal Court to answer to the charge of violating New York State law. You will also face interim suspension and be referred to the student conduct process.
- On-Campus Gatherings: Individuals who host or attend on-campus gatherings that exceed the 10-person limit are in violation of the Stay Safe Pledge. These individuals will face interim suspension and be referred to the student conduct process. Please review the Stay Safe Pledge.
How to Anonymously Report Stay Safe Pledge Violations: Our community must commit to accountability. If you see activity that violates the Stay Safe Pledge or public health directives, please immediately report this activity to the University through the new Rave Guardian app. You can submit tips anonymously and even include photos or videos with your report. The app is free and can be downloaded in the Apple or Google Play app stores.
Important Testing Reminder: As we have shared previously, all residential students are required to participate in the COVID surveillance testing program and be tested at least once per week during the spring semester. Please don’t wait until the last possible opportunity to comply with the weekly testing requirement. You can be tested anytime during the week and avoid longer wait times that we have experienced on Thursday and Friday afternoons at the Stadium Testing Center. Here are a few ways you can incorporate testing into your weekly schedule:
- Make an appointment and put it on your calendar! If it’s on your calendar, you will plan around it, ultimately ensuring you are testing every week in a timely manner.
- Make it part of your fitness routine. When you’re heading to the Barnes Center, take a brief detour to the stadium—before or after—to get your test.
- Visit the stadium before one of your meals. If you eat lunch every day at noon, plan to get tested right before. Once you’re done with your test, you can refuel for the rest of your day.
The Stadium Testing Center is open the following hours:
- Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wednesday evening from 5 to 10 p.m.
- Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Ensuring an Accurate COVID-19 Test: COVID-19 testing is a simple and quick process. However, there are a few easy steps our community members can take to ensure they’re providing an adequate and non-contaminated saliva sample. As a reminder, please take the following steps when preparing to participate in COVID testing:
- Do not eat, chew gum, drink, use mouthwash or use any tobacco products for 30 minutes before testing.
- Deposit enough saliva to reach the line marked on your tube.
- Be sure you only deposit saliva into the tube (not mucus or phlegm)!
- It is recommended to hydrate well earlier in the day before you test to prevent dry mouth.
If you do not follow these instructions closely, there is a chance that your sample will be rejected by the laboratory. In such an instance, you will be notified to return to the Stadium Testing Center to provide a new sample. If you have questions, please ask a testing assistant for help. For more information, please watch this short video.
Latest Mask Guidance: The CDC recently issued additional guidance related to the use of masks as a tool to combat the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This guidance includes the following do’s and don’ts:
- Do make sure your mask fits snugly against your face.
- Do pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ out.
- If your mask is a single layer, you should consider wearing a second mask to strengthen your protection. You can do this by wearing one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
- Do wear a mask whenever in the presence of another individual. Masks work best when everyone wears one. Masks are not a substitute for social distancing.
- Do not wear two disposable masks together; they are not designed to fit tightly and wearing more than one will not improve fit.
- Do not wear masks that do not fit properly, are made from materials that are hard to breathe through or are made from loosely woven fabrics that are knitted.
- Do not wear masks with exhalation valves or vents.
- Do not wear a scarf, gaiters or ski mask as a face covering.
- Do not use N95 respirators that are meant for health care workers; they are critical supplies that should be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.
To request masks: Schools, colleges and departments may request COVID-19 related supplies for their areas from the University’s central COVID-19 supply stock using the COVID-19 Supply Request Form. If you have any questions on the available supplies or your department’s supply needs, please contact Environmental Health and Safety Services at EHSS@syr.edu.
Minimize your COVID Risk: Going to the movies, dining out at a restaurant or simply giving someone a hug were once routine activities. Today, in the time of COVID, they present great risk. Knowing which activities could jeopardize your health and that of your friends and the community is key to mitigating the spread of the virus. To help you understand what is and isn’t safe, please visit the Stay Safe website to review a helpful infographic that aligns the level of risk associated with common college activities. Make smart decisions that minimize your personal risk and the risk to your roommates, friends and classmates.
Fitness Center Occupancy Limits and Cancellation Requirement: In accordance with New York State public health guidelines, gyms and fitness centers must limit occupancy. As such, the Barnes Center at The Arch, Ernie Davis Fitness Center, Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion and Graham Fitness Center are continuing to operate at reduced capacity and require all patrons to make a reservation. Given current occupancy limits and the continued interest in using the fitness centers, effective Monday, Feb. 22, users will be asked to cancel a reservation if they are no longer planning to use the fitness centers to open availability for others who are seeking to make a reservation. Those who do not cancel and “no-show” to two reservations may lose reservation privileges for up to two weeks. For more information, visit the Barnes Center at The Arch website.
Food Services Hours: The University continues to adhere to density reduction guidelines, particularly in our cafes, dining centers, student centers and convenience stores. As part of this effort, our facilities’ hours are subject to change. Please bookmark the Food Services website for the most up-to-date hours.
It was one year ago this week, that the first meeting of the “Coronavirus Task Force” was convened. At that time, I do not believe any of us anticipated what was to come. Over the past year, the COVID health emergency has forever altered lives, families, communities and commerce across the globe. Individually and collectively, we are feeling pandemic fatigue. But there are signs that positive change is on the way. Importantly, we can accelerate the return to normalcy we all want to see if we double down on our commitment to safety and prevention, and to each other.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation