SUNY to require COVID tests before students leave for Thanksgiving break

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In hopes of preventing spread of COVID-19 in hometowns, the State University of New York will require students be tested before leaving campuses for Thanksgiving break, the university system has announced.

All students who are taking at least one class on campus; utilizing on-campus services such as the gym, library, or dining hall; or working on campus must test negative for COVID-19 within 10 days prior to their college closing on-campus instruction and services. Antibody tests do not count toward this requirement.

Colleges and universities that currently require weekly pooled surveillance testing for every student can apply to have their preexisting policy fulfill this new requirement. SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras directed all 64 campuses to submit a plan to test all of their on-campus students over a 10-day period before the start of their break by Nov. 5.

“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.

SUNY also strongly recommends that all faculty and staff are tested within the same period.

Most campuses will not resume in-person teaching after Thanksgiving.

The policy was reviewed and approved by public health experts in public health, epidemiology and infectious diseases in SUNY’s university centers and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

They include:

Dr. David R. Holtgrave, dean, School of Public Health, University at Albany

Dr. Christopher Morley, chair, Department of Public Health & Preventative Medicine, Upstate Medical University

Dr. Eli Rosenberg, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University at Albany

Dr. Stephen Thomas, chief of infectious disease, Upstate Medical University

Since the beginning of the fall semester, SUNY Colleges and Universities have tested more than 270,000 students with a positivity rate of 0.52 percent. System-wide cases continue to trend downward. The rolling 7-day positivity rate is 0.32 percent, and the rolling 14-day positivity rate is 0.33 percent.

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