Cuomo sends SWAT team to SUNY Oneonta to contain COVID-19 cluster

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has deployed a SWAT team to State University of New York College in Oneonta to help contain an increase in coronavirus cases that have developed at school.

The state team will include 71 contact tracers and eight investigators, Cuomo said Sunday.

In an effort to control the outbreak, New York State will also open three free rapid testing sites in the town of Oneonta that will be open to all residents of the town by appointment.

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Cases of the virus started appearing last week when the university officially welcomed undergraduates for the fall semester. Since then, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases from SUNY Oneonta has reached 105, representing 3% of faculty, staff and students who are on campus or use campus facilities, according to university officials.

“Colleges are the canary in the coal mine, and a 3 percent infection rate is high in a congregation situation, similar to a dense urban environment where people take public transportation,” Cuomo said. “This is why we are deploying state resources to contain the new COVID cluster at SUNY Oneonta”,

To further help cope with the increase in cases, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras has announced a two-week suspension from in-person teaching at the SUNY Oneonta campus. The suspension will be in effect until September 13, according to Cuomo State guidelines.

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Cuomo praised Malatras for his actions, saying, “The Chancellor is doing exactly the right thing at Oneonta and I think he’s taking the good deeds through SUNY, and I think private colleges really should follow suit. ”

Malatras’ directive aligns with Cuomo’s Aug. 27 directive regarding mitigation measures colleges should take if their COVID-19 infection rate exceeds a certain level.

As per the governor’s guidelines, colleges must switch to distance learning and suspend in-person activities on campus for two weeks once they reach 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 or an outbreak corresponding to 5% of the population.

If a school achieves this mark, it is required to return to distance learning with limited activity on campus for two weeks while the situation is assessed by health officials. If the local health department finds that the college cannot contain the outbreak even after the two week period, the school may be required to continue distance learning or authorities may impose other mitigation measures. in consultation with the state health department.

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If clusters of positive cases emerge in particular areas of a campus while they are still below 5% or less than 100 students, but “strain the college’s ability to isolate and contact the trace.” , the college must move to 100% distance education “with a -campus activity,” the guidelines say.

As a school tries to contain an outbreak, “sports and other extracurricular activities must be suspended, and dining options must switch to take-out only,” according to the guidelines.

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