UAlbany goes on ‘pause’

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Havidán Rodríguez, president of the University of Albany, addressing the press in September.

ALBANY COUNTY — Because of a spike in COVID-19 cases, the University at Albany shifted on Tuesday to fully remote learning for the remainder of the fall semester. 

President Havidán Rodríguez posted a notice on the university’s website Monday saying, “As a result of a very concerning increase in the number of presumptive COVID-19 cases among University at Albany students, on Friday, November 6, we decided to conduct surge testing,” he wrote. “Approximately 3,400 samples were submitted from on-campus students, which resulted in a presumed positivity rate of 3.3%.

“As per our COVID plan, we have identified the corresponding students and they have been placed in quarantine, aside from students who opted to quarantine in their homes.”

Following state guidance to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the university decided to shift to remote-only learning.

The guidelines require any of the state’s 64 campuses to switch to remote learning for two weeks if the number of COVID-19 cases in a discrete two-week period tops 100.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 11, for the period beginning Nov. 7, UAlbany has an estimated 102 positive test results, according to the SUNY COVID-19 Tracker set up by the state. Since testing began on Aug. 28, UAlbany has had an estimated 348 cases.

Currently, according to the tracker, 220 of the 230 rooms set aside to quarantine students are in use.

The last day of classes is Tuesday, Nov. 24, followed by final exams from Monday, Nov. 30, through Monday, Dec. 7, which were already scheduled to be conducted remotely. The spring semester will begin on Feb. 1, 2021.

Campus housing will remain open and operational. Students will be expected to remain on campus and in their rooms to the extent possible. If residential students decide to leave campus housing to go home during the pause, they must remain home for the remainder of the fall semester.

All students who are required to quarantine or isolate must continue to do so to minimize community spread of COVID-19.

Rodríguez also outlined other steps, including take-out dining only, remote-only use of the libraries, no campus gatherings, and suspension of all athletics and recreation activities.

On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, on a conference call with reporters, had said colleges “have been highly problematic.”

He noted that all students in the state university system will be tested for COVID-19 before they go home for Thanksgiving  and they won’t return to campus until February.

“I’m asking private colleges to review what SUNY did, take that action into consideration, but announce what their policy is going to be because I need to make a decision whether the state should set a policy for private colleges,” said Cuomo.

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