North Campus maintains zero COVID-19 cases amid Erie County outbreaks

Health Services director cites social distancing, cleaning measures as precautionary factors

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North Campus, with its roughly 1,500 residents, still does not have any confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

Susan Snyder, director of Health Services, cites the campus’ social distancing and cleaning measures as the reason. Still, the lack of cases is atypical of the pandemic, as Erie County currently has 2,996 confirmed cases, 364 of which are in the Amherst/Williamsville municipality encompassing North Campus. 

The four zip codes bordering North Campus have a combined 401 confirmed cases, but North Campus (14260) remains the only zip code in the Amherst/Williamsville municipality with no confirmed cases.  There are only four other Erie County zip codes with zero confirmed cases, but North’s is by far the most densely populated. The other four zip codes –– 14013, 14091, 14145, 14037 –– have population densities of 40-58 people per square mile, while 14260 has roughly 1,500 people per square mile.

Snyder attributed numerous factors to the lack of confirmed COVID-19 cases on North Campus, including mandating non-essential employees work remotely and that essential employees who can should do so as well, but said there may be more that officials haven’t recognized yet. 

“There could be other factors that influence the spread of the disease; however, the scientific community has yet to reach a consensus of what those factors may be,” Snyder said. “Until that happens, we would only be speculating on the matter.”

Other areas with similar or lower population densities have been unable to prevent COVID-19 and stop its subsequent spread. There may be multiple reasons for North Campus’ lack of confirmed cases, including demographic factors and university measures. But many of these factors are currently undetermined, given how much is still unknown about the virus.

Buffalo State and Daemen College have both seen COVID-19 cases on campus, each with two students who tested positive, and Buffalo State has one faculty member who tested positive. All five cases were confirmed during the fourth week of March.

The same week, a student in UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences tested positive for the virus. The student lives off campus and self-quarantined, according to Dean Michael Cain.

UB had one “presumptive case of COVID-19” in Governors Complex. The student and their roommate quarantined, but the student was not tested, according to the university’s COVID-19 information site. The university has not notified students of any other residents experiencing symptoms. 

The university has also implemented preventative policies, like providing residents with face masks that they must wear whenever they leave their room, which faculty members credit as preventing a COVID-19 spread on North.

Gary Giovino, a community health and health behavior professor, suggested students’ age may be another potential factor in the lack of confirmed cases.

“I would hazard that youth and social distancing would be the first two reasons I would consider,” Giovino said.

Although UB seems to be containing the virus, Buffalo’s COVID-19 peak may still be weeks away, according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. While the university has already cancelled summer events like orientation, the future of fall semester is still in question, according to Snyder.

“Decisions regarding the fall semester have not been reached,” Snyder said. “The university’s leadership is currently planning for various scenarios for the fall, dependent on how the pandemic evolves and guidance from the federal, state and local health officials.”

Lauryn King is the assistant managing editor and can be reached at lauryn.king@ubspectrum.com or on Twitter @LaurynSKing.

LAURYN KING



Lauryn King is the assistant managing editor for The Spectrum. She’s a busybee and copy editor at heart.