LETTER from WILLIAM PIETRAFACE
To the Editor:
As a retired SUNY Oneonta professor of biology, I have been following the local and national coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak on the campus. Here are some thoughts on the coverage.
SUNY Oneonta’s planning for reopening for the fall semester began in April with widespread input from all stakeholders on campus. The Local Control Group, which includes representation from the City of
Oneonta and the Otsego County Department of Public Health, also provided input.
At this time there were many questions about COVID-19 testing, including who should be tested, availability of tests, cost of testing, and reliability of testing procedures.
The draft plan for the fall 2020 semester, which did include a statement saying that prior to returning “students must attest to having no COVID-19 symptoms and no known infection” but no mandatory testing, was submitted on June 1 and subsequently approved by SUNY, the state Department of Health, and the State of New York in July.
Sixty other SUNY campuses also had their plans approved requiring no mandatory testing.
As students began returning to colleges and universities around the country, we began to hear of COVID-19 outbreaks on their campuses. Since the coronavirus does not discriminate, all types of schools were affected including public and private, big and small, elite and non-elite.
As the semester began here for SUNY Oneonta, a small group of students, making up less than 1 percent of the SUNY Oneonta student population, held an outdoor gathering off campus.
This led to 672 positive COVID-19 cases since Aug. 24, the disruption of campus life for over 7,000 students, faculty, and staff, and untold loss of revenue for the businesses and restaurants in the City and Town of Oneonta.
One possibility for the rapid spread of infections among this student population, and in other rapid epidemiological events around the country, could be that the coronavirus mutated into a new strain. Epidemiologists are now looking into just such a possibility.
Fortunately, there has been no community spread as reported by the county Department
of Public Health and no deaths. Unfortunately, the reputation and credibility of SUNY Oneonta and its administration has been called into question.
SUNY Oneonta has faced many challenges since its beginnings in 1889 as a State Normal School. I am confident that going forward the college will continue to maintain the quality of education and student life that SUNY Oneonta has become known for.
SUNY Oneonta merits strong support as it faces this newest challenge.
Professor Emeritus, Biology