COVID BREAKS OUT
AT SUNY ONEONTA
City Police Bust Party,
Noise Violation Issued
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Walking downtown at 1 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23, Mayor Gary Herzig saw exactly what he’d hoped he wouldn’t see.
“There were significant numbers of young people congregating in groups and not wearing masks,” he said. “I had high expectations, and I am very disappointed we did not achieve them.”
And on Tuesday, Aug. 25, SUNY Oneonta announced that two off-campus students had tested positive for COVID-19.
“I was hoping we’d make it through the first week,” said President Barbara Jean Morris.
According to Heidi Bond, public safety director, neither student was on campus during their communicable period. The Department of Health has begun contact tracing to notify any students or faculty who may have come in contact with the two individuals.
“I wish both of them a speedy recovery,” said Herzig. “We have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of students know the risks and are taking precautions, but it doesn’t take that large of a percentage to ruin it for everyone else.”
Calls to the newly established COVID hotline were enough to keep Oneonta Police busy over the weekend, with one ticket issued for a noise complaint.
“When we responded, it looked like it was starting to get going in the wrong direction,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner. “There were a few other calls, but when we arrived, people were starting to scatter, so we stuck around to make sure they moved along.”
Morris said that she received “no reports” from either OPD or Campus Police. “If we do hear of students who are acting outside of our plan and violating our rules, they will move through the judicial process,” she said.
Students arrived back to SUNY last week. According to Kim MacLeod, Associate Director of Communications, students were asked to quarantine at home prior to coming to campus.
“It was an honor system,” she said.
On campus, the school is testing wastewater and, should COVID be detected, “pool testing” of groups of 20 students to seek a positive.
“It’s saving a lot of time and energy,” she said. “And because the testing sites are situated around campus, it can pick up employees and off-campus students too.”
The two students who did test positive were tested at off-campus clinics, according to Morris. They can either quarantine at home or on campus in Tobey Hall, which has been designated as a residence for COVID cases.
Across the street, new students are set to return to Hartwick on Wednesday, Aug. 26, with classes starting next week.
According to David Lubell, Hartwick College Media Relations Manager, several students have already been declined entry to the campus after reporting a positive COVID test.
Hartwick students are required to show proof of a negative COVID test before returning to campus, and will be tested regularly throughout the semester.
“(Facilities Director) Joe Mack was saying he was convinced that we were going to be one of the schools that made it,” said Lubell. “We’re covering as many bases as we can.”
And with the return of both colleges, Herzig said that police patrols will be increased downtown next weekend.
“Our guys carry masks to hand out,” said Brenner. “But at this point, it should be like putting on your pants.”
“Enforcement can be effective,” said Herzig. “But it’s not as effective as communication and education. “
On Sunday morning, Herzig said he sent an email to Morris, requesting that they meet to talk about the students behavior downtown.
She declined to talk with him. “She felt the issue should be taken up with the Control Room when we meet,” he said. “She’s appointed two of her staff to it.”
“I look forward to what the Regional Control group has to say,” said Morris. “When my schedule allows, I’ll come to the meetings.”