SUNY Potsdam students react to having COVID-19: ‘But I’m not sick!’

Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 5:25 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The 5 students with confirmed cases of COVID-19 at SUNY Potsdam came from high-risk areas. Only one showed any symptoms at all.

They had one reaction when they found out they have the new coronavirus.

“'But I'm not sick!' So that's an important point in this whole thing that you can test positive for COVID-19 and not be sick at all,” said Tracy Harcourt, SUNY Potsdam student health services director.

Only one had a symptom of anything: a mild cold. But they are carriers.

“And you can spread it to other people without knowing,” said Harcourt.

So the 5 are isolated in individual dorm rooms. Meals are brought to them. A registered nurse checks in daily.

“The main goal is to make sure that they can stay in their rooms, with their separate bathrooms, isolated, until such time as county public health can determine it's safe for them to leave,” said Kristin Esterberg, SUNY Potsdam president.

They were already in self-isolation because they came from high-risk areas in the United States. About 85 students total are on campus because going anywhere else would be a hardship.

Basically, this is the first COVID-19 cluster in the county. Health officials are saying it's still too early to analyze if there are any overall trends. But that's just what they'll be doing in coming weeks and months as more cases are identified.”

“We are trying to get a county map together, so you'll see us start to map by township the number of cases so we can see what is going on on a county-wide basis,” said Dana McGuire, St. Lawrence County Public Health Department director.

The 5 students would have never been tested under normal circumstances. But tests were offered to all students who came from high-risk areas.

“I would have loved it if they had all been negative. But since they were positive I just said, 'Okay I'm ready for this and let's get things going,'” said Harcourt.

Other college campuses also still have students residing there.

St. Lawrence University has 122, Clarkson nearly 130 and SUNY Canton about 100. One employee of St. Lawrence and one one of Clarkson’s have also tested positive.

See our report from earlier in the day Monday

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