Syracuse, N.Y. – One off-campus party at Syracuse University early this month quickly resulted in about 80 students testing positive for coronavirus and another 250 being quarantined.
That’s why Mike Haynie, an SU vice chancellor, wants students to avoid large gatherings this Saturday on Halloween, traditionally a big college party holiday, and follow safety protocols to protect themselves from the virus.
“A Halloween mask is not a suitable substitute for a face covering that serves a public health purpose,” Haynie said.
Campus and Syracuse police will step up patrols this weekend in neighborhoods bordering the campus.
More than 80% of the 220 coronavirus cases reported so far this semester at SU originated off campus.
The off-campus party on Walnut Avenue early this month nearly forced SU to halt in-person classes. The state requires colleges to suspend in-person classes and switch to online learning when they get 100 positive cases within a 14-day period. SU missed the threshold by just 20 cases.
On Oct. 2, SU had just four coronavirus cases on campus. Within three days the number skyrocketed to 80 because of the party. If SU had not quickly rounded up all the students who were infected and exposed, the outbreak would have gotten out of control, he said.
Some students involved in the party were disciplined, but Haynie would not disclose how many or details of the sanctions.
He said most SU students have been diligent about following health and safety rules. Students will leave campus Nov. 25 and return Jan. 24.
Although SU plans to offer in-person classes again next semester, it won’t bring students back if Onondaga County experiences a steep increase in coronavirus cases, Haynie said.
SU was able to reopen in August because the positive coronavirus test rate in Onondaga County was about 0.7%, he said. SU probably would not have reopened had the positivity rate here been in the double digits like it was in Miami in August when the University of Miami reopened, he said. Onondaga County has seen cases steadily increase in recent weeks. The county reported 70 cases Wednesday, a new daily record high. The county’s average positivity rate is now 1.1%.
Haynie said SU will closely monitor local coronavirus activity as it makes plans for the spring semester.
“We are going to press ahead to welcome students back Jan. 24, but if it’s not safe to do that, nothing will trump safety in the decision making process,” he said.
James T. Mulder covers health and higher education. Have a news tip? Contact him at (315) 470-2245 or [email protected]
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