In order to visit their families over the Thanksgiving holiday, students matriculated in the State University of New York system (SUNY) are being required to first test negative for the Wuhan coronavirus before leaving campus.
According to ABC News, dozens of SUNY campuses are requiring students to test negative for the virus before leaving for home. SUNY students must test negative for COVID-19 within 10 days before leaving campus and are encouraged to take their test as close to their departure date as possible.
"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."
In-person learning isn't expected to return to SUNY until next year, with the winter term being fully remote and the spring semester pushed back to the beginning of February.
Responding to criticism that SUNY's Thanksgiving policy for students wishing to leave campus "infringes on students' rights" and attempts to "hold students hostage," Malatras says such accusations simply aren't true and points to the state's health law requiring anybody who tests positive for COVID-19 to isolate for 14 days.
"Campuses must work with local health departments on how and where students will isolate," Malatras writes in a recent OpEd published in the New York Daily News. "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."
ABC News reports that SUNY has experienced outbreaks across the 64 campuses in its system, with a handful of those campuses choosing to pause or end in-person learning during the current semester. With over 700 confirmed cases at the SUNY Oneonta campus in central New York, the campus moved to all-remote learning at the start of September. Officials said the large number of cases were primarily driven by large parties held both on-and off-campus.
SUNY has plans to eventually test some 140,000 students enrolled in its campuses using a saliva swab diagnostic test developed by SUNY Upstate Medical University and Quadrant Biosciences.
Colleges and universities have been implementing restrictions on students as they struggle to contain the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.
Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts refused to refund the $36,000-semester tuition paid by eleven first-year students who were dismissed after violating rules regarding social distancing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging people to consider postponing travel plans for the Thanksgiving holiday and staying home in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
On the bright side, news of promising vaccines that have been speedily developed, showing more than 90 percent effectiveness at stopping the disease, are expected to be available in just a matter of weeks. Another reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day.