SUNY requiring on-campus students to test negative for COVID-19 before leaving for Thanksgiving

Emily Burkhard
Updated: October 27, 2020 11:20 PM
Created: October 27, 2020 09:17 AM

In a few short weeks, SUNY students will be heading home for the holidays, but they'll have to test negative for Covid-19 before they leave.

The new rule applies to any students who take a class in person, use services like the library or dining halls or are working on campus. The policy calls for them to get a test as close to their departure date as possible.

"Our students have been doing this now for the last couple of weeks, they are used to this,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said Tuesday. “What we found though is you have to adapt sometimes."

Malatras said in order to prevent spikes in cases across the state and country, all SUNY colleges and universities will have to develop plans to test the 140,000 students in the system by November 5.

"We have a larger responsibility to our broader community that's why we're doing this and we have the capacity because of all the testing we've created at SUNY using SUNY researchers,” he said.

Malatras said Upstate Medical University has already tested some 270,000 saliva tests from SUNY students, faculty and staff this semester.

If a student who lives on-campus tests positive, they'll have to follow New York State Department of Health guidelines and quarantine there for 14 days. The guidelines said students can leave the moment they get negative test results.

Students that live off-campus and test positive have a bit more flexibility.

"For students who want to go home all we say is work with your local health department make sure they sign off on saying it's safe, that you have a space to do this and then the normal rules apply,” Malatras said.

Off-campus students who can't quarantine at home will be allowed to stay on-campus.

Malatras said critics have claimed students could easily get around complying with the new rule, but he said compliance hasn't been an issue thus far, and he doesn't expect it to become one now.

"They want to know if they have the virus because they don't want to go home and infect their mother or their father or their grandparents,” Malatras said. “They want to do the right thing."

UAlbany freshman Amber Ellis agreed.

"That makes me feel better because you're not bringing something home to your families and spreading it to where you're from,” Ellis said.

Malatras said SUNY had already planned to go entirely virtual after Thanksgiving.

Though the policy hasn't been developed yet, Malatras said they will likely pre-test students before they come back to campus in the spring.

That's welcome news to senior Athilah Bhandia, an international student from South Africa, who has permission stay on campus for the remainder of the semester.

"I think it's a lot safer you know especially for the students that stay on campus because you know you go home and you interact with a lot of people so I think it's a proper safety precaution to take,” Bhandia said.

Faculty members are also strongly encouraged to get tested before the end of on-campus instruction this fall.

You can find a more information about SUNY’s policy here.

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