20-20 hindsight is easy but…
Aug. 21-23 was critical. That was the first weekend back for SUNY Oneonta’s 6,500 students. For Hartwick College 1,200; but, as it turns out, that was less impactful.
For Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Common Council, the focus had been on bars and gatherings on Main Street, but that turned out to be under control.
Yes, there were students there, but the heightened public concern, and tavern keepers’ wariness about losing their licenses, plus state regulations preventing people from actually standing at the bar, avoided the COVID-19 petri dish that downtown might have been.
It turns out, a better focus would have been off-campus festivities – several “large parties,” as SUNY
Chancellor Jim Malatras put it, where a handful of students passed the infection to other students who went back to campus and passed it on to others, 245 as of Tuesday, Sept. 1. Kapow!
In addition to patrolling downtown, city police were supposed to be patrolling for large parties. According to Police Chief Dave Brenner, a cruiser responded to a single party, and issued a noise complaint.
With 20-20 hindsight, there you have it.
On the SUNY campus, the policy was to ask incoming students to self-quarantine for seven days, and those coming from “hot-spot” states to quarantine for 14. Dreamin’, as was underscored by the course of events since then.
In contrast, Hartwick College insisted students get tests in advance to prove they were clean, and tested them again when they arrived on campus, and will continue to do so.
That SUNY Oneonta had to test all its students on an emergency basis AFTER 105 cases erupted on the Saturday of Weekend Two – underscores that Hartwick’s approach was better.
It’s nice, perhaps, that the first default of SUNY Oneonta’s administration was to trust students to be dependable – but we’re in a pandemic, folks. Nice doesn’t do it.
At the time, the SUNY Student Association’s opting out of City Hall’s ban on nighttime buses between the campuses and the downtown seemed like a bad idea. Since, the SA’s contract with Hale
Transportation of Clinton was abruptly cancelled.
On his Sunday, Aug. 30, press conference at SUNY Oneonta, Chancellor Malatras also announced a high-ranking official, Hank Bennett. the SUNY system’s deputy director of operations, has been deployed from Albany to advise the local campus’ administration.
It’s a shame it had to come to that, but there it is.
The good news is, as of this writing, at least, there have been infections, but not all are active. It seems young people are more at-risk than originally thought, but not as much as older citizens.
This may change by the time you read this, but by press time no one had been hospitalized, and it was expected all SUNY students would be tested.
We’ve learned collaboration is better than not, that tough decisions are necessary, that there’s no substitute to dusting ourselves off and moving forward.
After Malatras raised the alarm, Governor Cuomo dispatched a virus-testing SWAT team to the City of the Hills, which set up testing sites Wednesday, Sept. 2, at Foothills, the Oneonta Armory and
St. James Episcopal Church.
For now, in Oneonta, you can get tested; so, get tested. That allows contact tracing, quarantining and, eventually, let’s expect and anticipate, an end to this unhappy episode and a return to whatever the
New Normal may be.