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UAlbany Moves To All-Online Instruction Due To Rising COVID Rate

UAlbany President Dr. Havidán Rodríguez.
Jackie Orchard
UAlbany President Dr. Havidán Rodríguez.";

Due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, the University at Albany is moving to fully virtual classes for the rest of the fall semester.

Coronavirus is spreading more rapidly than at any other point during this pandemic year. The UAlbany campus has seen an uptick in cases and Monday officials decided to go on "pause."

UAlbany spokesman Jordan Carleo-Evangelist:

" Starting early last week, the Monday and Tuesday after Halloween, we started to see an uptick in cases detected by our in house surveillance testing system. That's the testing that we do weekly of every student, faculty and staff member on campus, who are asymptomatic. It's a system we use to get a sense for how prevalent the viruses among people who are feeling fine, which is really important, because from our perspective of controlling the spread of the virus, those are the people you want to identify and quarantine and isolate. Because folks moving around who don't know they're sick are likely to make many, many other people sick. So at any rate, early last week, we started to see some movement in those numbers. By the end of last week, that movement was concerning enough to us that we took some interim steps to limit operations on campus, and asked every resident students, so every student living in our dorms and on campus apartments, to submit a sample of saliva sample for surveillance testing on Friday, every single one."

Samples were tested and analyzed on-campus over the weekend. Carleo-Evangelist says by Monday morning, enough of an increase in positive cases, a presumed positivity rate of 3.3 percent, prompted a move to all remote learning. He says the students stuck to the rules and did everything right.

"We don't have any evidence that the spikes that we're seeing now is linked to large scale parties. You know, there's a couple of reasons for that. The Capital Region more generally, as you probably are aware, has seen a surge in cases and community spreads over the last two to three weeks. Our numbers actually stayed lower for longer, which suggests to us that what we're seeing in this surge on campus is this community spread that's been going on around us and around our campus for you know, two, three weeks now, creeping in."

Student housing will remain open and operational and students are expected to remain on campus and in their rooms as much as possible.

The last day of the fall semester is November 24th. The spring semester is scheduled to begin February 1st.

"Well, I think you'll see, in a lot of ways we started the spring semester will look a lot like the start of the fall semester. So before students returned to our campus in August, they had to be tested and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Now, that'll be true before we resume classes in person on February 1st, that'll be about a week later than we normally do. You know, we'll have regular and frequent surveillance testing".

At his Tuesday morning briefing, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy announced 68 new cases of COVID were confirmed overnight, with 400 new cases over the past week.

"32 had close contact to positive cases. Five health care workers, two people that reported traveling out of state, and then the bigger number, 29, don't have a clear source of infection. We know for a fact that some might not, maybe a small percentage on that, but out of 29, there's people that they're just not telling us. Again you're not protecting somebody, we're not gonna lock 'em up. But if you want to spread and you don't want to shut businesses down again, and you want to get back to somewhat of a new normal of the world we're in, we need your help."

Albany city schools revealed a passenger on a First Student bus Friday tested positive. Also on the bus were students from New Scotland Elementary School, Albany High School, Montessori Magnet School and Edmund J. O'Neal Middle School. Forty-six students in all have been quarantined.

Schenectady County Public Health Services confirmed that an employee at Katie O’Byrne’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in the city of Schenectady tested positive for COVID-19. The county says the employee last worked at the restaurant on November 5th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Also Monday, New York State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay announced he tested positive for the virus.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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