Colleges and universities in New York State that are testing at least 25% of their total on-campus students, faculty and staff per week will only be required to suspend in-person classes and activities if the positivity rate of their on-campus population reaches 5% over a rolling 14-day period, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday in a press release.
Previously, colleges in New York were required to go on pause if they reached either 100 cases, or a 5% positivity rate during a static 14-day period. Colleges and universities testing less than 25% of their on-campus populations will still have to go on pause if they hit 100 cases within a rolling 14-day period.
But despite rising cases at UB, Cuomo says “testing is the key to accelerating our economic reopening before reaching herd immunity,” and we need to “increase the volume in testing.”
“This new guidance will not only incentivize colleges and universities to ramp up their testing efforts, it will also give these schools more flexibility before having to shift to remote learning and pause campus activities so more schools can remain open without jeopardizing safety,” Cuomo said in the statement.
In a statement on the UB News Center, UB officials said they “support” Cuomo’s decision.
“Members of the university community continue to be vigilant in adhering to UB’s health and safety guidelines, which has helped UB maintain a very low positivity rate of less than 1%, significantly lower than local and state averages.” the officials said in the statement. The university continues to closely monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 among UB’s on-campus population. Weekly surveillance testing is a key component of that.”
As per a SUNY mandate, UB is testing all on-campus students, faculty and staff on a weekly basis. As such, all on-campus classes and activities will only be paused if the on-campus positivity rate.
The announcement came just as UB had recorded 62 active on-campus COVID-19 cases counting toward the NYS threshold for shutdown, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard. The current two-week period ends in one week on Feb. 26, suggesting that a two-week pause is possible.
However, the new guidelines appear to have averted a shutdown, as the university’s 14-day rolling positivity rate for Feb. 18 was 0.35%, according to the SUNY COVID-19 Case tracker.
“The health and safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors to the university remain UB’s highest priority,” the university said.
Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor for The Spectrum. He is a political science major and a (mediocre) Spanish minor. He enjoys taking long bike rides and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon.