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Students living in three Syracuse University residence halls where clusters of COVID-19 infections were reported last week are undergoing frequent testing and participating in enhanced safety precautions.
SU closed all indoor dining spaces, including Schine Student Center and campus dining halls, on Wednesday after detecting clusters of COVID-19 cases in DellPlain, Booth and Shaw residence halls.
The university also shut down lounges and study spaces within the three halls to curb the virus’s spread. Students in these halls were supplied with extra masks and hand wipes and instructed to double-mask.
As of Sunday, SU reported 92 active COVID-19 among students and employees in central New York — the highest the number of active cases reported during the spring semester. SU also reported that 275 students were in quarantine due to confirmed exposure.
Capeley Zimet and Laura Kuruvilla, who live in DellPlain, expressed frustration at the lack of study and lounge spaces, especially after the university shut down indoor dining.
“It’s just frustrating because there is nowhere to eat that isn’t my dorm now,” said Zimet, a sophomore.
Living in a dorm can cause stress because of how easily the virus can spread among residents, said Kuruvilla, a sophomore television, radio and film student.
“It’s definitely scary living in a dorm because it’s so easily spread here,” she said.
Cameron Brito, a sophomore living in Shaw Hall, was tested for COVID-19 three days in a row. After completing his mandatory surveillance testing Tuesday morning, Brito received an email Tuesday evening from the COVID-19 management office informing him that his dorm hall was required to perform additional testing on Wednesday, he said.
The next day, SU released an updated testing schedule, which required Brito and all Shaw residents to get tested on Thursday. While all three of the tests came back negative, Brito expressed frustration about the testing requirements being so close in proximity to one another.
“That was kind of annoying,” Brito said. “They were all negative, so I wasn’t sure why I had to go again on Thursday, but I do understand that the university wants to make sure we are all being safe and containing the outbreak.”
Brito said that the lack of access to the lounges and common spaces has been the biggest change. While he does not know of anyone on his floor who tested positive, he was aware of about 20 individuals on other floors who went into quarantine or isolation.
“It’s affected me a little bit different than it probably would someone who lives next to someone who tested positive,” he said. “It’s not as much of a worrying thing for me, but I do think everyone’s been taking it really well. We’re all doing double masks and following guidelines.”
Zimet also feels that students are abiding by mask-wearing and other COVID-19 protocols more so than before. People are now taking protocols a bit more seriously, Zimet said.
Colleges and universities in New York state are required to move all classes online and limit on-campus activities if the campus’s positivity rate exceeds 5%. For SU — which has an on-campus population of about 17,600 students, faculty and staff — 880 positive cases within two weeks would require the university to go on pause.
But university officials have said that SU would take action to prevent the spread of the virus far before reaching that threshold.
Previously, the state required the university to move all classes online and limit on-campus activities if it reached 100 cases within a fixed two-week reporting period. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the change shortly after the start of the spring semester.
In the fall, the university suspended operations twice to comply with the state’s requirement.
The university limited in-person activities in early October after a cluster of cases broke out after one SU student traveled to Binghamton, which New York state had deemed a coronavirus hotspot at the time.
After the first outbreak, the university canceled all in-person activities, excluding classes and athletics. It also amended its public health guidelines to limit gatherings from a maximum of 25 students to five or fewer and closed the Barnes Center at The Arch and SU’s satellite gyms.
About a month later, SU moved all classes online nearly two weeks before the end of the semester. The university confirmed over 280 coronavirus cases as a result of the second outbreak as cases across the county began to surge.
Haynie said he is optimistic that new guidelines will curb the spread of the virus, but that the university may take further action if cases continue to spike. As soon as the cluster appears to be under control, Haynie said the university will lift the temporary regulations.
Published on March 22, 2021 at 12:19 am