January 18, 2022

SUNY Cortland to tighten virus testing after rise

Logo provided by SUNY Cortland

As SUNY Cortland experiences an increase in coronavirus cases, largely due to off-campus gatherings of students, the college on Sunday announced plans for pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19.

The plan was announced by State University of New York chancellor Jim Malatras and Cortland president Erik Bitterbaum during a visit by Malatras to the Cortland campus Sunday.

In a news release issued by the college, Bitterbaum said the new procedures will “effectively pinpoint and contain the virus and prevent outbreaks on campus.”

The pooled surveillance at SUNY Cortland will involve conducting at least 1,000 weekly tests. SUNY Cortland will use SUNY Upstate Medical University’s testing program.

Malatras announced on Sept. 9 that Upstate Medical secured five new coronavirus testing machines, which will help SUNY schools process more than 120,000 tests per week.

The testing methodology allows for 10 to 25 people to be screened as part of one test. The samples are combined into one and tested for the virus. If the test comes back negative, the group is free of the virus. If the test is positive, however, each individual in the group would be tested again to pinpoint exact positive cases.

“We appreciated the opportunity to share our plans for combating the COVID-19 virus and Chancellor Malatras’ support of our efforts,” Bitterbaum said. “This is a challenging time for all SUNY campuses and communities, and we are pleased to be part of a unified approach.”

SUNY Cortland has seen a recent uptick in cases on-campus due to off-campus gatherings, according to a news release by SUNY. This has led to the campus suspending athletic activities and Greek Life indefinitely until cases decline.

The college has recorded 51 positive cases as of Monday, according to the COVID-19 dashboard on the SUNY Cortland website, with 45 of them active. Twelve students are currently in on-campus quarantine and two are in on-campus isolation.

“Increased testing frequency done in tandem with strict, consistent enforcement and data-driven decision making is the right strategy for keeping cases down and campuses open,” Malatras said.

Lisa Perfetti, interim public health director for the Cortland County Health Department, said communication between the health department and SUNY Cortland “is ongoing as we work together to complete isolation and quarantine activities.”

“SUNY Cortland will continue to put strategies in place to mitigate the spread of COVID into the greater Cortland community,” she said. “It is important that everyone in Cortland County remain diligent and continue to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

TC3 returning to in-person classes

Tompkins Cortland Community College was resuming in-person classes on campus Monday following a two-week move to online classes after a case of coronavirus was confirmed, State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced Sunday during a visit to the college.

Peter Voorhees, public information officer for the college, said TC3 decided, in consultation with the Tompkins County Health Department, to move to online classes to allow for contact tracing after one positive COVID-19 case was reported.

He added that there were three days of testing prior to the start of classes on Aug. 31. A total of 275 tests were taken, Voorhees said.

“TC3 prevented a major outbreak in cases with swift and prudent action,” Malatras said. “It’s proof that if we monitor cases closely, respond with proactive, urgent action, and achieve campus-wide compliance with safety protocols, we can control this virus.”

“Our plan was to be proactive in identifying cases in our campus community,” said Orinthia Montague, president of the college. “We were able to find a small number of asymptomatic cases, which allowed us to work with the county health department to isolate those students and stop the spread.”

Voorhees said that, in partnership with Cayuga Health System, expanded testing on campus began Monday.

Testing on campus will be conducted at intervals over the rest of the semester, Voorhees said.

“Our move to increase testing in partnership with Cayuga Health System gives us the confidence that we will be able to continue our in-person learning without any negative effects on the community,” Montague said.