’Let’s not let our guard down:’ Local colleges learn lessons about COVID spread from SUNY Oneonta

Local colleges watch SUNY Oneonta developments

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. (WWNY) - The coronavirus-related shutdown of SUNY Oneonta has caught the attention of colleges in northern New York. Universities in St. Lawrence County are getting a lesson in how to deal with campus cases.

It’s the reality for many colleges and universities across the country - how a few COVID-19 cases can rapidly turn into hundreds.

Officials at Clarkson University, SUNY Potsdam, and SUNY Canton say cases like those at SUNY Oneonta are a stark reminder of what COULD happen.

Clarkson University reports 2 active coronavirus cases. President Anthony Collins says that’s out of more than 3,000 tests done so far. More tests will be done Wednesday.

“I hate to say it, but the example with Oneonta, that’s how quickly it can happen. And so I hate that it had to happen to a campus, but that’s actually helpful to us in a sense because it’s that constant reminder that it can occur, it happened quickly, let’s not let our guard down,” said Anthony Collins, president, Clarkson University.

At SUNY Potsdam, there are no active cases of COVID-19. The college is waiting on the results of more than 1,300 tests. President Kristin Esterberg says under the governor’s guidelines, if the campus reaches 100 active cases, it immediately has to transition to virtual learning - something educators are prepared for.

Esterberg says 10 percent of their residence hall space is set aside for quarantine and isolation.

“My hope is that we won’t need to go there. I think our students are looking very carefully at experiences at other colleges and are saying they don’t want that to happen here at Potsdam,” she said.

At SUNY Canton, students were quarantined before arriving at campus and continue to get tested. Out of 1,000 tests, one was positive. An estimated 315 tests are pending.

President Zvie Szafran says they will continue to do surveillance testing every two weeks.

“We’re going to remain vigilant and do everything we can to make sure it stays that way and I think we’ve got a very good chance of having really good outcomes,” he said.

St. Lawrence University is reporting 2 active cases on its website. All colleges in St. Lawrence County have easy-to-access data updated daily on their websites.

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