SUNY Brings Back Students
On Exchange In Italian Cities
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – With Coronavirus cases increasing daily, SUNY Oneonta students who hoped to study abroad will have to wait until the fall semester.
“We have cancelled all study abroad programs for the rest of the semester,” said Kim MacLeod, SUNY Oneonta associate director of communications. “And we called back 33 students and faculty members who were already abroad, including four students in Italy and two in Japan.”
None of the students or faculty are in quarantine, but the recall is part of an increasing response to the rise of Coronavirus cases and precautionary measures aimed at reducing the rate of infection in the states.
Hartwick College, Bassett Healthcare, Cooperstown Center and Springbrook are also among the institutions that have issued travel bans, cancelled events and limited visitations to their campuses.
SUNY-wide, Chancellor Kristina Johnson has also issued a prohibition on any travel to countries that the CDC has issued a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice on – China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan.
“We may not use state money to pay for professional travel to these countries,” she said in a statement. “Nor may we use Faculty Development Grant money or department OTPS funding to pay for travel to them or reimbursements for travel to them.”
Hartwick College put similar travel bans in place for students, faculty and staff, banning any “non-essential” group or individual travel, and that all college-sponsored personal travel must be approved in advance by the vice president of the relevant school.
On-campus events will still be held; however, the college is not participating in men’s and women’s lacrosse games last week and the next week.
Bassett Hospital has also issued travel prohibitions for their employees, banning business travel to the Level 2 and 3 countries, as well as to any conference where there will be more than 100 participants, throughout the month of March.
They also encouraged that anyone traveling for personal reasons to refer to the CDC recommendations and to let team leaders know about travel so a potential quarantine may be put in place.
With the elderly as the most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, Cooperstown Center (the former Focus) at Index has also cancelled travel. “We had to cancel our trips to Walmart,” said Lacey Rinker, director of nursing. “The residents are not happy, but it’s too much of a risk.”
All visitors, staff or vendors are screened at the reception area to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to enter the building. “We’ve increased our number of hand-sanitizer dispensers throughout the building, and enforce ‘gel in, gel out,” she said. “You use hand sanitizer when you come in the building and when you leave.”
Similarly, Springbrook has limited visits to emergency and essential visits only, switching instead to phone and video calls or teleconferencing, as well as suspending community visits and postponing our Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, which had been scheduled for Saturday, March 21.
Barbara Ann Heegan, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce president, has reached out to her members with links to the Center for Disease Control, the county Health Department and Bassett. “I think everyone is taking this very seriously,” she said.
She is looking at putting together a program for employers who may be dealing with impacts from Coronavirus on their businesses. “We’re waiting to hear some more direction, but we’re seeing what we can do over email, rather than gathering.”
But with the Chamber’s annual Spring Gala planned for Thursday, May 7, Heegan is hoping that the risk will be significantly reduced enough to host the event.
“I don’t know how realistic that is,” she admitted. “It changes every day.”
At SUNY, the administration is using spring break to begin putting a contingency plan in place. “It’s great that we have a week to work on what we would do if we had an individual who exhibited symptoms,” said MacLeod.
Ahead of the break, SUNY posted a series of health tips for travelers – including hand-washing, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and carrying a first aid kit.
They also asked students to volunteer to “self-identify” where they were traveling. “Not the entire population told us, but more of them told us than I thought,” she said. “It will give us a better feel for how to handle.”