Students in the State University of New York (SUNY) system will have to take a COVID-19 test — and be negative for the virus — if they want to go home for Thanksgiving.
“The campuses of the State University of New York are among a small number of institutions that are mandating testing as part of its Thanksgiving break plan,” ABC News reported on Monday. “Testing is currently underway across dozens of campuses, with students required to test negative for COVID-19 within 10 days before leaving. Students were encouraged to take their test as close to their departure date as possible, with individual campuses coordinating testing schedules.”
Some 140,000 students in the SUNY system have been ordered to self-administer a saliva swab diagnostic test developed by SUNY Upstate Medical University and Quadrant Biosciences.
“The health experts said you need to wind down your semester after Thanksgiving break and then go all remote because you don’t want people traveling back and forth in the cold months,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras told ABC News. “We don’t want to send our students home, possibly infected.”
Malatras last week addressed criticism that the policy “infringes on students’ rights” and could hold students “hostage” in a recent New York Daily News op-ed.
“Students who test negative go home with peace of mind knowing that they are not carrying a virus that could endanger a loved one over the holiday. The mandated test also reassures communities that returning students are not bringing COVID-19 home with them. We know that one or two infected people reentering a community can be enough to spark a major surge in cases,” he wrote.
“Despite widespread support from students, a handful of people have criticized these measures — some with a misunderstanding of what the policy is, or worse, baseless accusations designed solely to manufacture controversy. Some argued that the policy infringes on students’ rights, while others went even further and accused SUNY of attempting to ‘imprison students’ or ‘hold students hostage.’ None of it is true,” Malatras added.
“As is already required by state health law, any person who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 14 days. Campuses must work with local health departments on how and where students will isolate. But given that some students may not have alternatives over the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ve required every SUNY campus to offer isolation space, and staff will remain on location to attend to any needs. We have an obligation to help those students in need,” he wrote.
Malatras said the university system has been among the “most aggressive” in the nation in dealing with COVID-19. “I felt that we needed to bring a little more rigor to the process, and more uniformity to the process,” Malatras said. “Every campus dealt with infractions against their codes of conduct differently. But what you saw there was an uneven application was leading to bad results on some of our campuses.”