Syracuse University is preparing to re-open its doors to in-person learning for the spring semester on Monday under very different circumstances from the fall. Vice Chancellor Mike Haynie says it will be challenging.
"We're bringing students back from all over the United States and the world. Right now, all over the US in particular, the rate of COVID infection in those communities is at an all-time high relative to the entire pandemic. That's the environment in which we're reopening Syracuse University for the spring semester."
Students who arrived from non-contiguous states over the weekend and tested negative for COVID are out of their four day quarantine. Students from New York and contiguous states will arrive starting Friday. Haynie says the testing regimen has changed from the random sampling of last fall to a more prescribed, routine testing once a week.
"Our planning factor is to do 4,000 tests per day. If you extrapolate that out, that is an expectation that we'll do between 250,000 to 300,000 surveillance tests between February and May. Essentially that makes the testing operation at Syracuse University one of the largest testing operations in all of New York State."
Faculty and staff who have contact with students will also need to be tested regularly. Haynie says they learned last year, and the science shows, they need to know who is carrying the virus.
"Most of the folks who are infected and therefore infectious to others don't know they're sick. That's where surveillance testing can really help us."
He says the university has in-sourced testing facilities and the lab, which means they can identify and isolate a COVID positive person within 24 to 36 hours versus the typical 3 day wait for results. Haynie says the shorter time frame reduces the opportunity for additional infections. But he says testing only goes so far.
"Our students are adults, and at this point in the pandemic, everybody understands what the behavioral expectations are. Now, it's really about personal accountability."
Haynie says he needs student buy-in, along with some compromises, to be together on campus. He says SU and other colleges are still required to switch to remote learning if they have 100 positive tests in two weeks.