School started at SUNY Oneonta a little over a week ago, but now as of September 1, the campus is reporting 245 coronavirus cases.
Students like Katie Bohart are worried about the lack of communication from the school and say that they found out about the spike in cases over the weekend from the news or social media.
“We found out actually on the news,” Bohart explained. “Syracuse did a report, my hometown did a report, my mom texted me, and I was like, I have heard nothing from the school. Some people found out on Reddit.”
Up until last Friday, SUNY Oneonta did not have any test sites on campus, besides their health center that was set up mostly to treat symptomatic students.
The campus now has one pool testing site in the gymnasium.
Bohart said when someone from her roommate’s class tested positive, they went to get a test at an off-campus urgent care. The wait time for students stretched over eight hours.
No one followed up with them from the school or the Department of Health.
“Her professor just advised everyone to go get tested, just to be sure and that was it,” Bohart explained. “He said they would be contacted by the Department of Health if they were really in contact with someone who was positive. She never received a call. That’s been a common thread is that people have not been receiving contact tracing calls.”
SUNY Oneonta president Barbara Morris says the school had a plan in place to track cases and has been using methods such as tracking COVID-19 in wastewater.
But each school has a different method of notifying their students. UAlbany has an app students can check, while SUNY Oneonta sends an email about once a day with an update.
Morris says the school is working harder at making sure students are informed about the number of cases, but she admits Governor Cuomo made his announcement on the spike in cases at the college before they were ready.
“As we were deciding what we were going to have to do, based on the governor’s guidelines that were issued on Friday,” Morris explained they were coming up with a plan to tell students before the governor’s announcement came unexpectedly on Sunday. “But I understand the need to take swift action.”
SUNY Oneonta students are currently under a two week quarantine and meals are being delivered to their dorm rooms. Bohart said that students are getting moldy food or just not enough.
“One of my friends posted on Twitter her calorie intake because she is really into health and fitness and she needed an extra 500 calories yesterday to be healthy,” Bohart said. “The school is just giving them a moldy apple, some cookies and a salad.”
Morris says the dining hall was not prepared to switch around its food process, but they are working on getting students more complete meals.
“Dining services readily admits it was a rough transition,” Morris explained. “We anticipate those meals turning around immediately, even as soon as today.”
SUNY Oneonta’s COVID-19 response plan was approved by the State and State Health Department.
But there is no uniform policy set up across the SUNY system, when it comes to testing and communicating with students about the number of cases.