SUNY’s campus in upstate Oneonta is closing after more than 100 people there tested positive for coronavirus following a series of large parties in the opening week of classes, officials said Sunday.
Even though classes only started Monday, local officials pushed to test the 3,000 students and teachers after many showed symptoms of COVID-19 following “several large parties,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said.
As of Sunday, at least 105 have tested positive — an alarming 3 percent of students and teachers on campus, Malatras said.
The campus is now being closed for at least two weeks — and five students were suspended along with three student organizations, which were not identified.
“We’re going to be tough on those students not because we want to ruin their fun, but this is a different time,” Malatras said, referring to the “new normal.”
Local residents are also being offered three rapid-result tests. “Many of the students live off campus. There’s a lot of interaction in the community,” Malatras told reporters. “We want to manage the any potential spread and address it immediately.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it highlighted fears that reopening schools and colleges could damage New York’s progress against the coronavirus.
As of Sunday, 429 were hospitalized with the virus across the Empire State — the lowest figure since March.
“Colleges to me are very much a canary in the coal mine,” he said, warning they showed “what happens when you bring back a concentration of people” as the pandemic continues.
“I studied when I was in college, but I know not everyone was in the library when I was there. I understand,” he said of the parties.
“But if the students act irresponsibly, or the precautions are not in place, then the virus will spread, and then more dramatic action is going to have to be taken,” he warned.
The governor said it should serve as an alarm for other schools wrestling with how to open safely, too.
“Everybody’s anxious to get back to school, I get it. But everybody should be anxious to get back to a safe school,” he said.
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