The Chancellor of the SUNY system was in New York’s North Country on Monday. Chancellor Jim Malatras visited SUNY Plattsburgh’s COVID-19 testing site and discussed requirements that have been put in place to stem the spread of the virus on campuses.
SUNY Plattsburgh students have been taking remote classes for two weeks and are in the middle of a phased-in return to campus for in-person classes, which resume next week. College President Dr. Alexander Enyedi says all students must have a negative COVID test by Monday and throughout the semester everyone on campus must be tested weekly. “It’s mandatory to participate. So you’ll have to come to testing at your prescribed time whether you’re a student, a faculty member, a staff member or even the president. So we’ll all be getting tested here on campus every week until the end of the semester. And there are issues of compliance. So we’re going to be very strict putting health and safety first. We don’t want our students and our faculty or staff experiencing health issues unnecessarily.”
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras was on the Plattsburgh campus to launch the weekly testing protocol and noted that it is a system-wide requirement. “The most important piece to our entire reopening has been testing, testing, testing. We are requiring as a system now weekly testing of every student, faculty and staff on our campuses. That is the way we could manage the virus.”
The SUNY system launched a searchable database last September to provide COVID information on each campus. Malatras said the COVID-19 tracker was just upgraded to increase the amount of data that is available. “We’re now putting total tests, total positivity, we do trends. But also broken down by faculty and staff and students. So now you can see what the student positivity rate is. You can see what the faculty and staff positivity rate is. We have positivity rates by region and campus which I think is an important piece as well because right now we have a little bit of a flipped situation. Many communities in the fall were deeply concerned about college kids coming back to their communities and being the vectors of spread. We now actually have the opposite problem. The positivity rate is much higher in the broader community than it is on our college campuses.”
Malatras emphasized that the more data gathered from testing the better the virus spread can be controlled. “We have conducted now across SUNY more than 855,000 tests. We have conducted more tests than some states have done since the beginning of the pandemic in March. Our positivity rate as a system is point-five-four percent. So if we were a state, and we are as large as some of the small states in this country, we would have the lowest positivity rate. If we can keep our positivity rate low by testing every student we want to discuss spring athletics. SUNYAC, which is our athletic commission, is working on developing a plan. I asked them to put together a plan for spring athletics. And hopefully with doing more testing we can do more on-campus activities.”
Chancellor Malatras also visited Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh and North Country Community College in Saranac Lake.