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UPDATED: Syracuse University Investigates "Emerging Cluster" of Positive COVID-19 Cases

WAER file photo


Syracuse University's public health surveillance team has now identified and confirmed as many as 45 new positive COVID-19 cases that appear to stem from off-campus gatherings.  In a message to the University community, Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie says they've traced the cases directly or indirectly to one off-campus party held late last week on Walnut Ave.  He says as the contact tracing and testing process continues, they anticipate additional positive cases connected to the party.

"Our initial investigation suggests that this emerging cluster is the result of one or more students returning to campus after traveling outside of Central New York to visit another college late last week," Haynie said. "We are working closely with the Onondaga County Health Department to quickly identify and isolate all those potentially impacted and at risk because of this unfortunate series of events."

University officials are asking anyone who attended a party or social gathering late last week or over the weekend at an apartment complex on Walnut Ave. to shelter in place, and not attend class.   Haynie says they're focusing on supporting the students who now must enter isolation or quarantine status.  

The University is taking several actions to contain the spread and allow time for contract tracers to identify and isolate instances of potential exposure.  From Haynie's message:

1.            Until further notice, all in-person student activities, with the exception of classes, associated coursework and intercollegiate athletics, are paused temporarily. This includes all student organization and University-sponsored events, such as Orange After Dark, University Union, the Barnes Center at The Arch (and all satellite indoor and outdoor recreation facilities and activities), Tennity Ice Pavilion, Greek life and other school/college/student organization-sponsored activities. For the time being, many of these activities will transition to online modalities. Please be sure to visit the University’s events calendar to identify virtual activities and events. In the meantime, students may continue to:

o             Schedule appointments to visit the Barnes Center and/or Flanagan for health or counseling appointments;

o             Schedule and attend flu clinic appointments;

o             Access dining services, including at cafés and campus express;

o             Use libraries and other academic support spaces to continue their studies; and

o             Attend academic and support related appointments (e.g. financial aid counselor, academic advisor).

2.            Until further notice, the provision of the Stay Safe Pledge that allows for social gatherings of 25 individuals or less is amended such that, with the exception of classroom activity, social gatherings on- and off-campus may not exceed five individuals who do not live together.

3.            For the time being, we are asking and strongly encouraging Greek houses to adopt a “no-visitors” policy (beyond those who reside in those houses), akin to the policy in place for on-campus residence halls.

4.            Until further notice, we are asking all students to remain vigilant and rededicate themselves to best health practices, including social distancing and the use of face coverings.

Haynie says the University is also asking parents, families, and friends of studens to refrain from visiting Central New York for the remainder of the semester.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at