MALATRAS SHUTS SUNY-O
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – After 100 students tested positive overnight to COVID-19, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras returned to the campus for the third time in five days to announce he’s closing SUNY Oneonta for the fall semester, shifting all instruction online.
“We will address the spring semester at a later time,” he added.
In a 2 p.m. press conference next to the Chase Gym testing center, Malatras said he’s directed campus President Barbara Jean Morris to develop “a full transition plan” over the next two weeks that is “safe and effective” in enabling the 3,000 campus students to leave Oneonta safely and go home without threat to their families and hometowns.
Students in “isolation” will remain on campus until it is safe for them to depart, he said.
The transition plan will be guided by inputs from the state and county Health Departments. Deputy Chancellor Hank Bennett, SUNY system deputy chief operating officer assigned to assist the Oneonta administration, will remain here, assisting in the transition plan, Malatras said.
He also said students’ families will receive “full refunds for rooms and other costs” – the full amount, not pro-rated.
What’s happened on the SUNY campus is “a wake-up call for the entire (SUNY) community. This is serious matter … A small minority – just a few people – can ruin it for everybody,” Malatras said.
Ask if Morris’ theory that a single “super spreader” may have caused the Oneonta situation to spin out of control, the chancellor said that’s still to be confirmed. That might be the case, he said, citing the New Rochelle situation, where one “super spreader” at a big party is blamed for the Westchester County outbreak in March.
He did confirm that the local campus’ situation is the worst among the 64 campuses in the SUNY system.
With a total of 389 students testing positive so far, “there’s no one that comes close to that,” he said.
Malatras said his decision was guided by Upstate Medical’s ramped-up testing: It provided 3,000 tests over the weekend, allowing all on-campus students to be tested, revealing the extent of the infestation.
Chris Frommeyer, the criminal justice mayor from Long Island who asked a pointed question at Malatras’ Sunday press conference, was back today. “Why did it take so long to close down the college?” he asked Morris.
It may seem like a century. But the college president pointed out that the first two infections only surfaced nine days ago. The 29 cases that surfaced on Saturday and the 105 on Sunday spurred Malatras – he said he returned to campus Monday and again today – to act.