UPDATED 1:21 p.m. – SUNY New Paltz is mandating all on-campus students and students taking in-person classes be tested for COVID-19 after the university learned Wednesday a student received a positive test result.
The university announced late Wednesday the student – who was living in one of the campus’ dorms – tested positive after a voluntary on-campus test administered last week. The campus learned of the infection Wednesday afternoon, according to university spokeswoman Melissa Kaczmarek.
Before the positive test result, students were not required to be tested.
Even now, students in the dorms will not be tested immediately. Testing will begin next Monday, August 31, and only students living in the dorm’s basement levels will be tested that week, suggesting it will take several weeks to test the entire on-campus population.
Students also have the option of getting tested themselves at a local testing site. Students must be tested in the two weeks prior to when their dorm floor is scheduled for on-campus testing for the off-campus test to count.
The student and their roommate are in quarantine and are being monitored by the Student Health Service, according to the university. One of the campus’ dorms, Awosting Hall, was set aside before the semester started to house infected on-campus students.
It is the campus’ first confirmed case this semester. Students checked into dorms late last week.
All faculty teaching courses in which the infected student was enrolled have been notified, whether the course was in-person or remote, according to the university. Any students enrolled in any in-person classes with the student have also been notified, though the university emphasized it was not saying whether the student was actually enrolled in any of these classes.
These potential classmates will not be required to quarantine unless contact tracers investigating the case confirm they were within six feet of the infected student for 10 minutes or more, according to the university
University spokeswoman Melissa Kaczmarek wrote in response to a list of emailed questions that no personal details about the student could be revealed to protect their privacy, including what dorm they lived in. Kaczmarek did not directly address whether students would be notified if the infected student lived on their floor.
The university set up a text alert system over the summer, NPForward, to notify students and faculty of COVID-19 updates on-campus.
However, faculty at the university did not receive alerts from NPForward, according to Beth Wilson, the chapter president of SUNY New Paltz’s professors’ union.
Faculty instead received the news through the “Coronavirus Update” section of the “Daily Digest,” an emailed morning newsletter, according to Wilson.
The union, United University Professors, has repeatedly urged SUNY Central Administration to require tests for all on-campus students prior to the beginning of classes, but SUNY New Paltz never required these tests.
“We were being told consistently that the guidelines from SUNY Central were that baseline testing for all students on-campus was not really a cost-effective thing – they didn’t really think it was necessary,” she said.
About 2,000 students are housed in the SUNY New Paltz dorms this semester, down from the normal 3,200 after Awosting Hall was cleared to quarantine students, dorm rooms housing three students were eliminated, and many students elected to live at home or off-campus during the semester, which is mostly being taught online.