November 27, 2021

SUNY pushes on jabs

One-quarter of students remain to be vaccinated

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A year ago, one would be lucky to find one student walking across the SUNY Cortland campus. On Thursday, hundreds were. Nearly three quarters of them are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, entering the range where herd immunity begins to protect them

Almost three-quarters of the enrolled students at SUNY Cortland have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and school officials are pushing to get all students vaccinated by the end of September.

The college announced that following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, all students, unless they receive medical or religious exemptions, must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 27. Those who aren’t will be de-registered and won’t be able to attend classes.

“We’re doing everything within our power” to remind and notify students to become fully vaccinated, President Erik Bitterbaum said Wednesday. This includes plenty of website postings and campus-wide emails, he said.

Of the 6,287 students enrolled in in-person classes or coming to campus for other reasons like housing, 4,607, or 73%, are fully vaccinated, said college Communications Director Fred Pierce.

Additionally, 5,470 have used the college’s online COVID-19 verification system to identify vaccination status, he said.

An undetermined number of students are applying for exemption, which won’t be known until after the deadline today.

“Many other students are probably vaccinated, but have not yet enrolled through the portal, so we have no knowledge of their status,” Pierce said.

New students moved in Aug. 26 and 27, and returning students came back Saturday and Sunday. By Wednesday nine had tested positive for COVID-19, SUNY data show.

These come as the Cortland County Health Department reported 26 new cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, bringing the total number of current positive cases to 157, according to the department’s COVID-19 tracker.

Similarly, the Tompkins County Health Department reported Tuesday that of the 361 new positive cases over the last seven days, a significant portion were related to the arrival and surveillance testing of college students.

“With this increase, we are continuing to urge the community to get vaccinated, wear a mask while around others, and get tested when you are symptomatic or a close contact,” Frank Kruppa, the Tompkins County public health director, said in a news release.

Kruppa added that with the Delta variant being more transmissible, more cases were reported with people who were fully vaccinated. However, people in these cases were more likely to be asymptomatic and less likely to be hospitalized.

“Vaccines are working to keep people from getting severely ill,” Kruppa said.

Bitterbaum stressed the importance for students to get vaccinated by echoing the school’s policy that those who aren’t fully vaccinated by Sept. 27 will be de-registered.

“If they choose not to do it, obviously there are consequences,” he said.