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Interim President Marcia J. White sent the following message to the Saint Rose community today (September 3, 2020):

Dear Students/Colleagues,

I hope your academic year is off to a strong start. The pandemic continues to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and so as we complete our second week of the semester, I thought it was important to share some updates:

Student Conduct
We want to make it clear that we are strongly enforcing our COVID-19 related policies. Whether it is having four people in a residence hall room or hosting an off-campus social gathering, students found to be violating our policies will face consequences that can be as serious as suspension.

Recently, we learned about two off-campus social gatherings with 20 to 25 attendees each. The hosts of those gatherings have received an interim suspension pending the outcome of their conduct hearing and are not permitted on campus. The attendees at the gatherings are not permitted on campus for 14 days and must provide a negative COVID-19 test result. Their ID access to campus has been turned off, and students found to have violated quarantine or restriction from campus will go through the student conduct process.

Employees can report violations of COVID-19 policies via this form.

In our initially published policy, the restriction from campus for students in violation of our policy was only until the student could produce a negative COVID-19 test result. We are now requiring both the negative test and are restricting campus access for 14 days out of an abundance of caution, and we hope that this will dissuade students from engaging in risky behavior.

Students who attended these recent gatherings have said they “knew everyone” at the gathering so they believed it was OK. Familiarity does not reduce the risk of COVID-19. The issue is the number of people a person comes into contact with over a prolonged period without wearing masks and without social distancing. There should be no confusion here.

Many of our students are taking these precautions very seriously and have sent us videos and screenshots from social media that expose off-campus gatherings. Albany Police have been patrolling the community during the weekends looking for gatherings as well. If protecting the health of the community isn’t enough of a motivation to make good decisions, we hope that recognizing that there are stiff consequences for policy violations will be enough to prompt responsible behavior.

The health of our community is our No. 1 priority. We understand that this isn’t the college experience any of us would like to have. But the situation with the pandemic will never improve until all of us start behaving like a community and understanding that the changes we make today affect our opportunity for a better tomorrow.

Changes to New York State guidance
Late last week, New York State shared new guidance for colleges on COVID-19 infection rates. Colleges and universities are now required to move to remote learning for two weeks if there are either 100 COVID-19 cases on campus or 5 percent of the campus population (students, faculty, staff, administrators), whichever is lower, within a span of two weeks. Residence halls would remain open, but dining halls would move to all take-out and there would be no extra-curricular or athletic activities. Read all of the details in the state’s guidance for colleges.

This will be the threshold we use at Saint Rose for determining whether all classes would move to remote instruction.

Positive cases
Should there be a positive case on campus, we have contact tracers in place, both within the College and via the Albany County Department of Health. Students and employees will be notified if they have had close contact with a COVID-19 case. Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “an individual who has had contact of within 6 feet of an individual for more than 15 minutes.” As our classrooms are socially distanced, having a COVID-19 positive case in a class does not mean that the entire class will be determined to be at risk. Again, we will work with the county and state departments of health to properly identify those at risk of exposure.

As outlined in the restart plan, we have secured quarantine housing for students who live on campus, and employees and commuter/graduate students would be required to quarantine at home.

The College is launching a COVID-19 dashboard so that you can stay informed about positive cases. We will not put out an announcement each time there is a positive case, unless it is necessary to assist with contact tracing. As of this message we have had one reported positive case since the start of the semester. The case was an employee who had not been on campus.

The dashboard will be updated weekly (Friday morning) and will contain the following details:
• Number of students testing positive
• Number of employees testing positive
• Number of total active cases (students/employees)
• Cumulative positive cases since the start of the dashboard

In addition, you will receive a weekly update email from Mark Parisi, director of counseling and health services.

So, show love, mask up, spread out, and do the right thing.