October 24, 2021

Rise in SUNY Cortland virus cases tracked

Logo provided by SUNY Cortland

One week into the spring semester, a rising number of COVID cases at SUNY Cortland are being investigated for their origins, though the cases are not believed to be from large gatherings. Nor is the rise unexpected.

According to the SUNY COVID-19 Case Tracker, 47 positive cases have been reported since the first week of January.

“We’re looking at it but the results so far are not a big surprise,” said Fred Pierce, the college’s communications director. He noted this as the college is testing more rigorously this semester than in the fall.

Pierce said the college anticipated having positive cases early on from pre-arrival testing along with testing required for people once they came onto campus.

Under SUNY guidelines, colleges must switch to remote learning if there is a positive rate of 5% or 100 students in a two-week period, Pierce said.

The current two-week period for SUNY Cortland started Jan. 30 and goes until Friday.

In a joint statement released Friday, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin and SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said the university is focused on keeping the community safe through aggressive COVID testing protocols.

These included:

  • Asking all returning students to submit a negative COVID-19 test or proof of a completed isolation period before coming to campus.
  • Testing all returning students upon arrival to campus.
  • Requiring all students, faculty and staff to participate in weekly surveillance testing during the spring semester

“When battling a pandemic, facts are more effective than fear,” Tobin and Bitterbaum said in the statement. “As we move forward together, we will provide regular updates to our community.”

The college expects to administer about 4,000 tests a week through the semester, Pierce said.

Pierce said the statement was sent out as an early opportunity to notify the outside community what the college has been doing to target and contain the spread of COVID.

Tompkins County, through Cornell University, faced a similar situation last semester. Undergraduates were tested twice a week, leading to an initial high number of confirmed cases, but followed by lower numbers as spread was reduced, Cornell Chronicle reported.

Pierce said he hasn’t received any reports the positive cases so far this semester were from any large gatherings. They may have come from students who live off-campus interacting with their housemates in smaller settings, similar to what happened last semester, but Pierce could not confirm that.

The college will continue to analyze surveillance testing data throughout the semester, Pierce said.

“The important thing is the quicker we can act on the infections, the quicker we can contain it from others,” he said.