October 23, 2021

SUNY Cortland to continue remote learning as cases grow

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, left, announces Tuesday with SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum that the college will continue remote learning after it exceeded a 100-case cap in its two-week coronavirus diagnosis. The announcement came as Gov. Andrew Cuomo was announcing in Albany that Cortland County was a coronavirus micro-cluster, with a 7% infection rate linked to the college.

SUNY Cortland will remain on remote learning for the next two weeks, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said Tuesday in a news conference at the school after two weeks where the college hasn’t sufficiently slowed the spread of coronavirus.

Malatras, who said that SUNY has been reviewing the school’s numbers with city and county officials, said that the 166 positive cases since Oct. 10 were “higher than we’d like them to be.”

“There’s no way of sugarcoating it,” he said.

The school had been on remote learning since Oct. 7, when it exceeded a 100-case, two-week limit on coronavirus cases at the college.

Malatras noted that cases at the school initially showed up this year mostly among off-campus students but has since spread to on-campus students via small groups, which he ascribed to COVID fatigue.

“You’re seeing an uptick because of this issue, which makes us have to double down and re-double our efforts to say we are all missing our families and not gathering with our friends as much as we would like too,” he said.

This makes it extra important to practice social distancing, mask wearing and other guidelines to stem the spread, Malatras said.

He was optimistic, though, because the rate of active cases was coming down, which was at one point a 6.5% positive rate of all cases, has decreased to 2.5% in the last couple of days.

“I think part of the explanation is that we have done a lot of testing,” said college President Erik Bitterbaum. “We did over 3,000 tests last week. We’re doing over 3,000 this week.”

But if the school wants to return to a hybrid model of in-person and remote classes, as before Oct. 7, students must continue to practice health guidelines, he said.

Students who don’t will face discipline.

To divert students from gathering, Bitterbaum said the school’s Student Affairs department is working to offer more opportunities and activities, so students don’t socialize with others.

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said that there was a strong likelihood of cases rising coming into cold and flu season, following statements made by national health officials.

“This shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody,” he said.

The influx of nearly 7,000 students into the community was going to raise the number of cases naturally, he added, but students still play a strong part in the city’s economy.