Seventeen new student cases of COVID-19 have been identified on Stony Brook University’s West Campus, according to an update case count released on Sept. 2.
The university, which has tested more than 3,000 students since Aug. 11, said that 17 students have tested positive for the virus. This brings the total number of confirmed cases on campus to 18, after the first case was reported on Aug. 28.
All of the students who have tested positive, along with those who have come in close contact with them, totals to 78 students. Students who tested positive for the virus are being quarantined for 14 days on campus; students who have come in close contact with the suspected cases are being instructed to self-isolate.
The university’s testing company, Enzo Labs, noted the possibility of false positives. Fifteen of the cases were tested in the same batch. A second test is being administered to all 18 of the students who produced a positive test. The results of these second tests are expected within 24 hours.
None of the students who tested positive are symptomatic and none were roommates. Since the cases are scattered throughout the campus, all residence halls have at least one case.
Six of the students who tested positive are exclusively taking online classes, while 12 had attended in-person classes. None of the positive cases were in the same classroom environment.
Eighty-one percent of students are registered for online classes only and 19% are registered for in-person classes, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.
The university has also seen no evidence of a single cluster, social gathering or event that could have spread the virus between the students, according to the update.
The university, with permission from students who have tested positive, will reach out to the close family members of said students and provide them with information on university protocols, as well as how the student’s case is being handled.
“We will continue to monitor cases, testing, quarantine and isolation capacity, and other factors that contribute to decisions about our operating status,” the statement read. “If there is a need to shift to an operating status of fully online instruction for a 14-day period or longer, we will communicate with the community directly and promptly.”
The Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corp (SBVAC) responded to all of the positive tests, including the 15 students who tested positive on Sept. 1. They transported the students to an undisclosed isolation ward on campus, according to SBVAC President Nikhil Bamarajpet.
“We took it one by one,” Bamarajpet said in a call with The Statesman. “We had to go to every single student’s dorm, get them and their stuff and we took them to the isolation ward. We were able to handle all the transports; however, it was a little stressful on us considering there were so many all at once.”
In a campus-wide email sent on Aug. 28, the Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Effectiveness introduced a COVID-19 dashboard to help spot common COVID-19 trends, and act accordingly to new data. The dashboard shows daily updates regarding positive coronavirus cases among students, university employees, Stony Brook Medicine employees and Suffolk County residents.
“Our tracking methods will help us make the most informed, ongoing decisions in a potentially changing landscape where we will need to stay flexible and nimble,” Stony Brook University said in the email.
Six main factors that will help the university decide if they will ultimately switch to fully-remote learning include campus infection rate, clusters of uncontrollable positive cases, quarantine space, personal protective equipment levels, hospital surge capacity and regional infection rate.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced that in-person classes will be canceled if COVID-19 cases rise on campuses to a minimum of 100. According to New York State guidance, if 5% of individuals at universities test positive within a two-week period, learning will be fully remote.
This switch to remote learning occurred at SUNY Oneonta, as coronavirus cases on campus have increased at a dramatic rate. As of Sept. 1, there have been about 245 positive cases since the beginning of the fall semester, according to SUNY Oneonta’s COVID-19 dashboard.
For two weeks, in-person classes at SUNY Oneonta have been canceled and campus activities have been limited to allow for contact tracing and necessary quarantining measures. The announcement came after the university tested every student and 105 students had already tested positive.
Casey McShea, a senior media studies major at Oneonta, said that she definitely expected that classes would switch to a fully-remote learning model sometime during the semester.
“My roommate and I were placing bets on when we would go remote or the school would send everyone home,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be as soon as this, but a part of me also wasn’t surprised.”
Cuomo has deployed a SWAT team — 71 contact tracers and eight case investigators — to the SUNY Oneonta campus to help contain the number of positive cases.
“I think it’s a smart move on Cuomo’s part,” McShea said. “As we’ve seen with NYS statistics in the last few months, increased testing doesn’t mean an increase in cases. It just exposes the cases that already exist and will hopefully help the school identify who may have been infected and control the outbreak.”