Students moving into their dorms at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. Students on State University of New York (SUNY) campuses must test negative for COVID-19 before they leave for Thanksgiving break. SARA RUBERG/STATESMAN FILE

All students on State University of New York (SUNY) campuses must test negative for COVID-19 within ten days before they leave for Thanksgiving break.

Most SUNY schools plan to move to a completely remote learning model after Thanksgiving. SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, who announced the new measure on Tuesday, said SUNY campuses have until Nov. 5 to submit a plan outlining their steps to close the fall semester. 

“By requiring all students to test negative before leaving, we are implementing a smart, sensible policy that protects students’ families and hometown communities and drastically reduces the chances of COVID-19 community spread,” Malatras said in the initial announcement.

Any student taking a class on campus, using campus services or working on campus is included in the mandate. Students who provide documentation of a COVID-19 test within that ten-day period, or who provide documentation of a previous positive result may be exempted from the rule, according to Malantras.

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Stony Brook University currently tests residential students once a week

“The extent to which (and frequency) that we are testing on campus allows us to already be in compliance with the latest SUNY requirements,” Lawrence Zacarese, interim chief of police and director of campus emergency management, wrote in an email to The Statesman. “We look forward to continuing to work with SUNY and our local health partners to prioritize the safety and health of our campus community as the semester progresses, prior to Thanksgiving and before returning home, and next semester when the bulk of students come back to school for the Spring semester.”

Malatras recommends that campuses have plans to quarantine any students who test positive. Residents on Stony Brook campus who test positive for COVID-19 may return home to self-isolate or relocate to another resident hall for 10-14 days.

Maariyah Khan, a senior health science major at Stony Brook University, thinks the mandate is a good thing. 

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“The school is looking out for the families of the student,” she said. “If someone is positive, then the person should be quarantining and they shouldn’t go home because then they would put their family at risk.”

She added, however, that she thinks the measure is unnecessary at Stony Brook.

“We get tested almost every week and I don’t think the students on campus go off of campus a lot to where we would get COVID,” she said. 

Elizabeth Dinsmore, a junior applied mathematics and statistics major, also thinks the measure might not be necessary at Stony Brook.

“I can understand why they would want to do that to stop the spread, but I don’t understand how they’d implement that since we already have to get tested weekly and they don’t really get back to us that quickly,” she said.

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She pointed out that there is a five-day period where students could potentially be exposed to someone with COVID-19 and they’d “still go home without knowing.”

“I honestly don’t think it’d be that helpful,” she said.

The university noted the SUNY policy change in a campus wide update email on Oct. 29. 

“A new SUNY system-wide policy seeks to ensure that all students test negative for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving break,” the email read. “The policy also strongly recommends that faculty and staff get a test during the same period. This should not be too difficult for our campus since testing is ongoing throughout the semester. Details to follow.”

The email also announced that new testing sites have been added at the Southampton campus and Health Science Center. Testing is available at Southampton on Mondays and Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and in the third floor galleria of the Health Science Center on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Stony Brook University has seen fewer COVID-19 cases on campus than most others in the SUNY system. SUNY Oneonta moved remote for the rest of the fall semester in September after hundreds of students tested positive. SUNY Cortland put in-person learning on pause from Oct. 5 to Nov. 3 after positive cases on campus climbed past the New York State Health Department 100-case threshold. 

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The SUNY system has seen a total 1,435 positive cases from on-campus testing so far this semester, as of Oct. 29. One student and one employee have been hospitalized, and there have been no fatalities. 

As of Oct. 29, 38 students and 62 university employees, excluding Stony Brook Medicine staff, have tested positive for COVID-19 through on-campus testing since the fall semester started. Most recently, between Oct. 21 and Oct. 27, there have been six positive cases among students and two among university employees, excluding Stony Brook Medicine. 

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