Low COVID-19 Positivity Rates Sparks Cautious Optimism on College Campuses


A cautious version of normalcy drives Long Island college campuses, but the experience of higher education for tens of thousands of students is still tied to the protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In-person classes, clubs and even carnivals are back this semester – after much distance education last school year – and most weekends back home and with family are at the time. The supporters are back in the stands of the stadium. But masking and vaccination warrants, capacity limits for indoor gatherings and some outdoor events, health checks and temperature checks, as well as regular testing of the unvaccinated, remain in place on some campuses for ward off the threat of epidemics.

Some campuses are reporting dozens of COVID-19 cases in the first few weeks of the semester, but positivity rates remain well below those outside campus gates.

“We are confident, but also very cautious, as we monitor where the pandemic numbers are heading around us,” Adelphi University spokesman Todd Wilson said.

Garden City University, which requires students to be vaccinated, has 25 cases of COVID-19, with 42 other students in quarantine, as reported on its coronavirus monitoring dashboard. The positivity rate on Friday was 0.4%, compared to Long Island’s positivity rate of 4.1%, according to the state’s most recent seven-day follow-up data.

The United States Merchant Navy Academy at Kings Point, where an outbreak forced nearly 800 midshipmen into quarantine and virtual training in early last spring, canceled homecoming events on the campus and parent weekends scheduled for fall. More than 20 students had tested positive for COVID-19 this semester as of August 30.

“Our experience with COVID is that once it’s on campus, it’s difficult to control and eradicate, and it’s extremely disruptive to the quality of life of our aspirants,” the Academy Superintendent said. Jack Buono in an August 30 press release announcing the cancellations. and a dining room policy requiring vaccination before entry.

In the first three weeks at Stony Brook University, 38 students, 28 employees and 87 employees of Stony Brook Medicine tested positive for COVID-19, but the overall positivity rate of students in the past two weeks is lower at 1%, according to COVID- from the university. 19 dashboard.

Students of the SUNY system, including Stony Brook, Farmingdale State College, SUNY Old Westbury, Empire State College, and Nassau and Suffolk Community Colleges, have until Friday to post proof of vaccination or get an exemption. SUNY Old Westbury had nine cases of active students and one case of active employee for a 0.22% positivity rate, according to its scorecard, while 20 students were in isolation at Farmingdale State, according to the SUNY COVID-tracker. 19.

Traditional events like the Wolfieland Carnival, canceled last year, are back on the Stony Brook campus. Last Saturday it drew more than 4,000 students to its rides, games and food vendors, said Devin Lobosco, 18, a sophomore from Bayside, Queens, who is a premier student government senator. cycle.

“We took our steps to keep everyone safe, and the turnout was much higher than expected, which was wonderful,” he said, noting that most of the students were masked. The campus is still not as vibrant as it was told it was before its freshman year, when almost all of its classes were virtual, but it’s coming back, he said.

“From what I’ve heard we’re slowly making this comeback,” Lobosco said, adding that interest in the clubs is growing now that they’re in person. “I really see that people are more comfortable going out.”

High vaccination rates in Hofstra

At Hofstra University, where vaccines are mandatory for students and employees, vaccination rates are high, allowing the Hempstead campus to “operate as close to normal as possible this fall, with health and safety protocols. additional security, ”spokeswoman Karla Schuster said. Masking is mandatory indoors and “in addition, we check the immunization status of participants at academic indoor events,” she said.

The Hofstra COVID-19 dashboard for the week of September 4-10 showed 67 positives for returning students, roughly half of the tests on campus. Four employees also tested positive.

St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, which had 10 self-reported cases of COVID-19, began testing on campus on Thursday. All unvaccinated students and faculty who have received medical or religious exemptions from the vaccination mandate will be tested weekly, spokeswoman Jessica McAleer said.

While most classes are in-person, clubs are encouraged to meet virtually, she said, and while the college will host large-scale events such as the Nomination and the Golden Eagles Spirit Fest, they will be outdoors and at a slower pace than normal. density. Indoor and outdoor sporting events will require masks and social distancing, she said, adding: “There will be no tailgating allowed.”

Taylor Damian, spokesperson for Adelphi, said the residences were at 98% capacity and noted the university went beyond state guidelines in imposing social distancing rules, limiting gatherings indoors at 50 where social distancing was not possible, and 50% capacity outdoors and indoor venues and events. These protocols will be reviewed Oct. 1 “for possible modification based on trends in infection data from the county and the university,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said, October Spirit Weekend will be a mix of in-person and online events, including Spirit Carnival, class reunions and a casino night.

On the Long Island University CW Post’s Brookville campus, students and employees are required to display proof of vaccination by September 24, wear masks indoors, and get tested regularly if they have a medical exemption or religious vaccination. Classes, events, organizations and sports are back in person and in accordance with the school’s goal “to make our campus, classrooms and facilities feel normal for students while adhering to all protocols. appropriate to ensure the safety of all, “said Maureen Cronin, spokesperson. .

The university was the only one on Long Island to require most faculty to teach in person throughout 2020-2021, with the exception of a few weeks of distance learning after a COVID-19 outbreak. The school’s COVID-19 dashboard shows three positive results among students, out of 105 tests administered in the week ending September 17.

At Five Towns College in Dix Hills, students and faculty must be vaccinated by September 30.

Some schools do not publish dashboards

While some campuses display COVID-19 dashboards showing current tests and positive test results, others, including Molloy College and the New York Institute of Technology, do not.

Molloy College will update its community weekly, said spokesperson Ken Young, who added that the college is trying to restore a sense of normalcy with events such as its unmasked outdoor back-to-school party, travel including one at Medieval Times and an open house. in November with masking inside.

Young said Molloy, where vaccines are mandatory for students and employees, had 14 positive tests from people across all of Molloy’s sites. The college does not specify whether they are students, faculty, or staff.

NYIT Chief Medical Officer Dr Brian Harper said submission of COVID-19-related data is no longer required by New York State, which no longer publishes COVID-19 cases at school other than those of the SUNY system.

“If this becomes a requirement again, New York Tech will certainly comply with the provision of this information,” said Harper. “We expect our masking and vaccine requirements, in addition to our daily medical screening, to reduce the likelihood of the coronavirus spreading on our campus. “

Meanwhile, Tiffani Blake, NYIT’s assistant vice-president for student development and engagement, said the campus, where vaccines are mandatory for students and employees, now has a very different feel to it. the last academic year.

“The parking lots weren’t full last year, the living rooms weren’t full, the dining rooms weren’t full. There were plenty of seats everywhere,” Blake said. “This year, the car parks are full… We can see the dynamism in the dining rooms, the students in clusters discussing among themselves. There is an effervescence and a beautiful synergy.

“It looks like a campus,” she said.

What there is to know

Long Island colleges and universities require vaccines for students – and, with a few exceptions, for faculty and staff as well. COVID-19 positivity rates among students and employees are lower than rates in all of Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The instruction is always a mixture of remote control, hybrid and in-person classes, but with significantly more in-person classes available this semester than in 2020-2021.

While some major events are virtual, many events canceled last year, like reunions and parent weekends, are back on most campuses.

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