NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo attributed multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at dozens of state colleges to out-of-staters entering New York after students returned to classes over the last two weeks.
Cuomo also announced a new state Department of Health regulation Tuesday requiring any college that has more than 100 COVID-19 cases within a two-week period to report the outbreak to the department.
“If they go over 100, the school could be closed down to do remote learning,” Cuomo said. “It is going to happen. One hundred cases can happen very easily. ... we see a cluster in a school, we’re going to come in.
“I’m not going to allow a cluster — that’s what I’m saying to colleges. You have all your protocols — that’s nice — but once you hit 100, that’s when we step in.”
As many as 108 colleges nationwide have reported more than 100 new coronavirus cases each, including outbreaks at Cornell University, Colgate University, Hofstra University and SUNY Oneonta, Oswego, Fredonia and Buffalo.
SUNY Oneonta was closed for the fall semester late last week after more than 450 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
New cases are largely tied to parties and congregations of students socializing.
“This is going to be a problem, I’m telling you that,” Cuomo said. “You have people coming from around the country and around the world to these colleges. Young people going back to college ... some students, unlike myself, wanted to socialize. Some come back to college and say ‘I want to see my friends, I want to enjoy libations, we want to go to a bar’ — those situations are increasing the spread.
“One of the lessons we’ve learned is just anticipate what’s happening and be ready for it,” he added.
The governor has had multiple discussions with college presidents across the state, he said, to encourage administrators to enforce state coronavirus mandates to reduce the spread of the disease. Cuomo repeated his suggestion for officials to place the blame on him when students complain.
“College presidents say, ‘It’s hard for me to say no to parties,’” the governor recalled. “Yeah, I get it. Do it in my name ... say, ‘Gov. Cuomo orders you all to disperse immediately.’ Blame me. I’ve said that from day one. Blame me.”