SUNY Cortland students, who have been studying remotely for nearly a month, will not return to in-person classes for the rest of the semester, the college’s president announced Sunday.
Instead, it will allow students who test negative for COVID-19 to depart campus and return home.
“We will be implementing an early and staggered departure plan for students who test negative, especially for those students who have all-online courses for the remainder of the semester,” said President Eric Bitterbaum in a release, in a plan the college developed with the Cortland County Health Department.
The testing and departure plan does not require students to leave campus before the already-scheduled moving out Nov. 20 to 23.
The campus is not closing, and services will be available for students who remain.
SUNY Cortland has seen 596 confirmed coronavirus cases among its 6,800 students since students returned for the semester in late August, including 17 new cases over the weekend.
On Oct. 7, following a visit by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, the college went to remote-only learning, but still has seen 359 cases.
The return of the students correlates with a spike in cases across Cortland County, nearly 770 new cases, or 89% of the cases confirmed in Cortland County since the pandemic began eight months ago.
“The SUNY Cortland community has faced significant challenges this semester, and all faculty, staff and students have managed heroically,” Bitterbaum said. “With just a few weeks remaining before the scheduled end of our oncampus semester and a plan for revised plan for testing and dismissal in place, the horizon is in sight.”
Under the plan, students who have tested positive for COVID and completed the 10-day mandatory isolation period may return home for the semester. Students who have gone home during the current study-in-place period for medical appointments and other excused reasons may remain at home.
Students who request to go home and test negative for COVID may leave within five days of taking the test.
If they do not leave within 48 hours of a negative result, they will need to retest.
No student will be allowed to go home for Thanksgiving break without proof of a negative COVID test, or completion of an isolation or quarantine period.
“All students are required to self isolate — strictly limit contact, wear masks and practice social distancing — between the time they take their test and the time they leave campus to avoid subsequent exposure to COVID,” Bitterbaum said.