Taking college courses this fall will require patience, technological savvy and, especially, flexibility.
New York set a COVID-19 threshold for closing New York colleges and universities after thousands of students returned to classes this week, fueling new coronavirus cases and the potential for new outbreaks.
This will be the state of higher education in the age of the coronavirus.
Under the guidance laid out Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, any state college – which would include SUNY Geneseo and Genesee Community College in the GLOW – with 100 positive COVID-19 cases, or a number of cases equal to 5% of the college’s population of students and faculty — whichever is less — must close and return to remote learning for two weeks.
Students will be allowed to quarantine in their dorms, if necessary, Cuomo said. After two weeks, officials will re-evaluate reopening the campus with local health departments.
A spike in positive coronavirus cases is expected with the increase in activity.
SUNY Geneseo on Wednesday reported that a “member of the college community” had tested positive for COVID-19. Students began returning to the Livingston County campus this week and begin classes on Monday.
Genesee Community College also begins its fall semester on Monday.
Even with the influx of students returning to classrooms expectation of isolated spikes, or clusters, there is doubt about how long in-person classes will be held at colleges in the state.
“We should anticipate clusters when you have large groups of people — that’s what we’ve been seeing,” Cuomo said Thursday. “So be prepared for it. Get ahead of it. We expect it.”
Students should also remember to adhere to precautions such as wearing masks, socially distancing and washing hands frequently that many schools are mandating. But these mandates should continue beyond the campus borders.
Students are also a part of the communities in which they study and should be practicing these protocols when among the general public or in their off-campus housing.
On Friday, SUNY Geneseo confirmed that it had temporarily suspended a fraternity where village police responded Aug. 25 for a large gathering of students who were not wearing masks or social distancing at the fraternity’s house. It was one of three such gatherings that village police had responded to in less than a week.
While SUNY Geneseo has banned large gatherings on its own campus, a spokeswoman advised on Friday that its “students are not permitted to organize or attend high-risk, residential, off-campus events or gatherings that exceed the occupancy limit at that location.”
“Those individuals and/or registered student organizations who participate in such gatherings, regardless of the host, will be subject to campus conduct action,” said spokeswoman Monique Patenaude.
Much is different as the fall semester resumes.
We hope students who want to get back to the business of learning are prepared to follow the health safety guidelines and be willing to shift gears at a moment’s notice in the event the state’s threshold is reached.
It falls to students familiar with the vagaries of the coronavirus, as the governor advises, to be ready for anything.