SUNY Cortland announced on Monday, Oct. 5, that it will temporarily suspend in-person classes, transitioning to online learning for a 14-day period starting Oct. 7 due to a rise in its COVID cases.
With 101 cases, SUNY Cortland has met the 100-case threshold that requires educational institutions to transition to remote learning under New York State Department of Health guidance. The university said that many of the recorded cases “are coming from off-campus students.”
"Now that SUNY Cortland must pause and shift to remote learning, the university must redouble its efforts to stabilize and contain the virus on campus,” said State University New York Chancellor Jim Malatras. “It’s up to the entire campus community to come together and bend the curve so that every student has the chance to enjoy their campus experience.”
If cases stabilize and students comply with safety measures, the Cortland County Department of Health may authorize the resumption of in-person learning.
State guidelines do not require on-campus residential housing to close for the two-week period. Residential facilities will remain open and students will be permitted to stay on campus for a temporary two-week shift to remote learning to prevent further spread of the virus. Students may be required to find other accommodations if the health department requires the school to continue virtually for the duration of the semester, but that call depends on the university’s ability to stabilize its spread.
SUNY Cortland has recorded 101 unique active COVID-19 cases within its current two-week window, which began on Sept. 26 and runs through Oct. 9. Athletics and Greek Life were preemptively suspended indefinitely on Sept. 13 and will remain suspended, according to the university.
The school said it has conducted 3,189 COVID-19 tests since the start of the semester — there are just under 7,000 students enrolled at SUNY Cortland. Students who have contracted the virus or who may have been exposed to the virus are required to quarantine or isolate on campus. The university said it has adequate space for these students, and trained university staff routinely check in on them throughout the day to ensure that their needs are being met.
According to NYSDOH guidance, once a campus passes the 100-case mark or 5 percent of campus population threshold, the campus must convert all campus dining and food service options to takeout/delivery; deliver all classes through remote learning, but may continue to conduct in-person clinical, laboratory etc., in consultation with the local health department; suspend in-person athletics, extracurricular programs, and non-essential services; and keep all residential facilities open.
Students who violate quarantine and social distancing guidelines now face immediate academic and housing suspension, as well as possible dismissal. Non-compliant student organizations face a permanent campus ban. The new policy shared by Malatras took effect on Oct. 1.
SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said, “The next two weeks will be challenging. But it’s what we need to do in order to continue functioning as a campus and a concerned member of the Cortland community. We can’t let up. That’s not what members of the SUNY Cortland family do.”
SUNY schools have mostly fared well during the pandemic. SUNY Oneonta was forced to move entirely online in September following one of the worst COVID outbreaks in New York state, and SUNY Oswego has just returned from a two-week pause after stabilizing its COVID cases. The SUNY schools have conducted over 140,000 tests on its more than 424,000 students to date.??