In the last week, UB's shutdown threshold increased from 100 to more than 700, even as case totals reached their highest point since the start of the pandemic.
On Tuesday evening, UB reported 125 on-campus cases of COVID-19 since Feb. 13 — the highest two-week total since UB began recording cases in August. The rise in positive cases follows UB’s decision to test all on-campus students, faculty and staff. The previous two-week record was 113, set from Nov. 7-Nov. 20.
Despite the recent rise in cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo changed his guidance on Feb. 19 so SUNY schools testing at least 25% of their on-campus students, faculty and staff would only be required to suspend in-person classes and activities if the campus positivity rate exceeds 5% over a rolling 14-day period.
“This new guidance will not only incentivize Colleges and Universities to ramp up their testing efforts,” Cuomo said in a press release. “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.”
UB officials said they “support” Cuomo’s change to the shutdown criteria and will proceed with weekly testing as planned in a statement posted to UB News Center.
“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,” the statement reads. “The health and safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors to the university remains UB’s highest priority.”
UB has administered 16,983 tests in the 14-day period since Feb. 12. If the university tests at this rate throughout the semester, nearly 850 individuals would need to test positive in a 2-week period for the school to reach the 5% shutdown threshold.
As of Tuesday, 103 of the 125 positive on-campus cases were detected through mandatory on-campus testing. UB uses the Clarifi COVID-19 test developed by Quadrant Biosciences and SUNY Upstate Medical University. The test can detect the presence of the virus in people who are asymptomatic and earned a top rating in the FDA’s SARS-CoV-2 reference panel.
The last time UB reached over 100 cases over a 14-day period was on Nov. 24. Despite exceeding the respective shutdown threshold, UB chose to remain open and continued to hold in-person classes until the Thanksgiving break.
Brendan Kelly is the assistant news editor and can be reached at email@example.com