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Plan: Catch Virus

Before It Can Spread

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Dr. Dennis Craig

ONEONTA – A draft plan on reopening SUNY Oneonta on Feb. 1 was released Monday, Nov. 16, that – among many points in the single-spaced, 22-page document – addresses a particular community concern.

That is, preventing this fall’s outbreak of 700-plus on-campus cases from happening again.

In an interview, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig called it “a strong plan” that includes a five-point prevention protocol he had outlined Nov. 9 in a video message to the campus:

• One, all students will be tested on arrival.

• Two, all students coming in from “hotspots” will be quarantined.

• Three, students, faculty and staff will undergo surveillance testing every two weeks.

• Four, a “pause” if the infection rate rises.

• And, five, Craig said, “what I would call a zero-tolerance code of conduct.”

“What gives the Oneonta plan an edge is: the campus went through something very difficult and learned lessons very quickly,” said Craig. “That makes it safer going forward.”

Under the plan, which is due in SUNY’s Albany headquarters by Dec. 10, students would begin returning Jan. 1, and classes – 20 percent of which would by M2M (mask-to-mask) – will begin Feb. 1.

The plan also limits the number of students taking classes on-campus to 1,100; it is usually 5,000. And only one person will be assigned to each dorm room; no more than four students will use each dorm bathroom, which will be cleaned twice daily.

Mayor Gary Herzig previewed the plan over the weekend and said Monday, “I found it to be very encouraging.”

“There was a significant increased focus on what happened off-campus, building stronger community relations, and eliminating unsafe behaviors,” he said. “That was something we did not see in the plan for opening in the fall.”

Craig bolstered that initiative Monday, he announced the appointment of Franklin D. Chambers to a new position, vice president/external affairs. In Oneonta since 2015, Chambers, who has been VP/student development, “will build and attend to the connections that make SUNY Oneonta among our region’s most unique assets,” the president said.

“I’m also encouraged by the open communications and sense of partnerships I’ve had with President Craig over the past several weeks, which is critical to a safe opening,” the mayor said. “We all want the campus to open. I think the plan does a good job of addressing risks while allowing the college to return to some semblance of normalcy.”

The plan was developed over the past month by a COVID Response Team co-chaired by Provost Leamor Kahanov and Vice President/Finance & Administration Julie Piscitello, and may be viewed in full by Googling “SUNY Oneonta 2021 reopening.”

Kahanov agreed tighter testing is the hallmark of the document. First, requiring students to get tested before arriving on campus.

Also, that off-campus students not only have to undergo daily checks – temperatures and the like – before coming on campus, and will have to carry a card that records those checks.

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