SUNY New Paltz Increases Safety Precautions as Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Rise

On March 20, SUNY New Paltz administration was notified of the first two positive COVID-19 cases within the campus community. As of April 3, the number of confirmed cases impacting the SUNY New Paltz community has risen to 16. 

The cases include seven SUNY New Paltz employees and nine students. All of those who tested positive were said to be off campus and in quarantine at the time of testing. One confirmed case,  a male theatre department adjunct, was hospitalized. As a precaution, SUNY New Paltz sent an additional email to students who shared classes with each student who tested positive for the virus.

The students’ names were not made public by the university, which stated that it would be “a violation of health and privacy laws” in an email sent to students. The email went on to explain that at the time, the university cannot determine their “exact level of exposure.” The students in these classes were advised to assume that they had been exposed to COVID-19 and self-isolate, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

However, Casey DeCaro, a fourth-year communication disorders major, said that she shared a class with one of the students who were confirmed to have the virus, but did not initially get an email to warn her. 

“I actually didn’t find out until a friend of mine texted me asking if I saw the email. I had no idea what she was talking about, so she forwarded it to me,” DeCaro said. “It basically said that someone in our class tested positive, and that they had come to the midterm on March 13.”

DeCaro then notified explaining that she never received the email, despite being in class on March 13. She then received the email approximately four hours later. 

“I was already self-isolating so that wasn’t a huge deal, but I was infuriated that I didn’t get the email,” DeCaro said. “This is a very big deal. The whole world is affected by this.”

According to an email from the Office of Communication and Marketing, each time the campus is notified of a new Coronavirus case at SUNY New Paltz, they will alert the campus community at 4:30 p.m. of that day. 

Additionally, the confirmed positive cases led to 11 buildings being closed on campus for “deep cleaning.” 

The buildings that closed for cleaning include College Hall, Shango Hall, Old Main, the Lecture Center, the Humanities building, Wooster Hall, Smiley Arts Building, van den Berg Hall, Resnick Engineering Hall, Mckenna Theatre and Parker Theatre.

The first three buildings closed have since reopened. College and Shango Hall were set to reopen on March 24 and Old Main reopened on March 26.

Despite the two buildings being closed for cleaning, the residential portions reopened on March 22, allowing residents of College and Shango Hall to move their belongings out of their dorms. 

“The residential portions [of both College Hall and Shango Hall] reopened after deep cleaning on Saturday,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Stephanie Blaisdell. “The academic portion was cleaned by Tuesday evening and reopened Wednesday.”

Students with special circumstances are still able to live on campus, however, they are being relocated to allow social distancing.

On Friday, March 27, SUNY New Paltz sent an email stating that individuals with symptoms “consistent with COVID-19” — such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath — are not permitted on campus. 

In addition, people traveling to campus are expected to take their temperature prior to leaving their homes, and may have it taken upon arrival.

“I think it’s a good idea to not allow people on campus if they’re showing symptoms,” DeCaro said. “This virus is serious and it needs to be taken that way. It’s unfortunate that our time outside our homes is now very limited, but if that’s the price we need to pay to attempt to slow or stop the spread of this virus, then so be it.”

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About Nikki Donohue 88 Articles
Nikki Donohue is a fourth-year double major in history and journalism. This is her sixth semester with The Oracle. She has worked as a News Copy Editor and an Assistant Copy Editor.