During a novel coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York state will contract with 28 private labs to increase testing capacity for the novel coronavirus. Following a call with the 28 labs, the governor announced he has instructed the labs to begin testing immediately as soon as they are ready. The 28 labs are specialized in virology and are routine partners with the New York State Department of Health.
The governor also announced the State University of New York and the City University of New York will implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning Thursday, March 19, for the remainder of the spring semester, in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses.
SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, "We have been working closely with the governor and the Department of Health to allow SUNY students to continue their education online or remotely, thus limiting their exposure to the COVID-19 while ensuring academic continuity. SUNY online is a major initiative for our system, and we have been preparing to migrate many of our academic programs to this new distance-learning platform. With more than 100,000 SUNY students currently taking one or more of their courses online with us, we believe we are prepared and well-positioned to take advantage of remote instruction to further our student's education during this crisis."
CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, "The transition to distance learning protects our students and all of our campus communities, while enabling the university to ensure academic continuity, safeguarding students' ability to finish the semester and protecting their financial aid. Our 25 campuses, including dorms, libraries and research facilities, will remain open. The health and safety of the university community remains our top priority and I am glad that this measure allows CUNY to continue serving its students while alleviating pressure on our area during this public health threat."
In a statement released after Cuomo’s decision, the University at Buffalo said, “For the past month, the University at Buffalo has been preparing to move to a distance learning model for student instruction in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.
“With the governor’s guidance announced today, and in collaboration with SUNY leadership, UB will now move forward to implement its plans for distance learning beginning March 23.
“In consultation with SUNY, UB’s leadership will provide more information to our students, faculty and staff this week regarding implementation of distance learning at UB and the availability of on-campus services such as residence halls and dining.
“UB has been communicating with the university community via its COVID-19 website, which has been updated almost daily since launching in January.”
At Niagara University, President the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., posted on the campus website, in part, “On Saturday, March 14, Niagara University will begin its spring break in both Lewiston and Vaughan. Classes were scheduled to resume on Monday, March 23; however, out of precaution, and to follow guidance from health organizations to de-densify and to practice ‘social distancing,’ the university will resume graduate classes on Saturday, March 28 and undergraduate classes on Monday, March 30.
Although there is no immediate concern to the campus community in regard to the Novel Coronavirus, as a Catholic and Vincentian university, our first concern is always the health and safety of every member of our campus community. Therefore, during this hiatus, decisions to hold on-campus events at both our Lewiston and Vaughan locations will be made on a case-by-case basis. Students living in campus residence halls will receive more specific and detailed information this afternoon via student email, through CA staff, and at scheduled information sessions.
“In anticipation of the return of students, the Office of Academic Affairs is working with faculty to deliver courses with as little disruption as possible. This will allow the university to stay in compliance with all federal, provincial, and state regulations and policies that allow students to complete their semesters and seniors to graduate.”
NU also announced, "Career Services is cancelling Career Expo, which was scheduled for Wednesday, March 25, out of precaution and to follow guidance from health organizations to de-densify and to practice 'social distancing.' We are currently seeking alternative methods for employers to connect with students, which will be communicated to the campus community if/when they are secured."
Cuomo announced the state will guarantee two full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine as a result of the novel coronavirus. Employees will not have to charge accruals during the time taken off work for quarantine. This will apply to all state employees, regardless of civil service classification, bargaining unit, and regardless of part time or accrual status.
Finally, the governor also confirmed 43 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 216 confirmed cases in New York. Of the 216 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
"While the risk to New Yorkers remains low, we are taking a number of steps out of an abundance of caution to protect public health, including asking SUNY and CUNY to implement strategies to reduce density on campuses for the remainder of the semester," Cuomo said. "At the same time, we're continuing to prioritize ramping up testing capacity, because the more people you identify as having the virus, the better you can contain it. We're also leading by example and providing paid leave to all state workers who are quarantined as a result of the virus – and we encourage businesses to voluntarily do telecommuting to the extent possible.
“Again, I want to remind people to keep this in perspective: The facts do not justify the fear in this situation and the facts here should actually reduce anxiety."
After speaking with business leaders, Cuomo also announced a new cooperative effort with New York business leaders to voluntarily implement different work shifts and telecommuting in an effort to reduce density.
Other sectors taking measures related to the coronavirus include:
The transportation company stated, “The safety of Amtrak’s customers and employees is our top priority. We are closely monitoring the coronavirus and are taking action based on guidance from public health experts. In order to maintain a safe environment and address customer concerns and potential business impact, we are taking the following measures:
“Before you travel
“If you are planning your Amtrak trip:
“Travel with confidence: As a valued customer, we are waiving change fees on all existing or new reservations made before April 30, 2020. Simply log in to your account or go to Modify Trip on Amtrak.com, or find your reservation from your account on the home screen in the Amtrak app. If you want to cancel your reservation, call 800-USA-RAIL. A fare difference may apply to your new itinerary.
“Minimal service impacts: There are currently no travel restrictions on Amtrak. As we are experiencing some lower demand, we have temporarily suspended three trains that operate between New York and Washington (Trains 2401, 2402, 2403). All three of these trains have alternative services available within 30 minutes before and after their scheduled departure.
“Take care of yourself and keep others safe: If you are feeling ill, please stay home until feeling better.
“Maintaining a safe environment
“To reduce risk, we are:
“Enhancing cleaning protocols: We have increased the frequency of cleaning service on our trains and at our stations to multiple times a day, and in some cases, on an hourly basis. We have increased the use of disinfectants to wipe down handrails, doorknobs, handles and surfaces.
“Increasing supplies of disinfecting products: We have increased the quantity of sanitizers and disinfectant wipes available for customers and employees throughout our trains and stations.
“Reinforcing good hygiene practices: We are regularly sharing with employees and customers best practices on ways to protect against communicable diseases.”
•Buffalo Sabres/KeyBank Center
THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: The NHL is “pausing” its season.
The Buffalo Sabres said, "The health and safety of players, staff and fans is our top priority. The Buffalo Sabres are in full support of the National Hockey League’s decision to pause the season. We urge all community members to practice caution and strictly follow the CDC’s guidelines for preventing the spread of disease during this time. We will continue to provide updates as necessary.
“Since the NHL is planning to reschedule the games, tickets will be valid for the rescheduled dates. Please call the KeyBank Center ticket office with any questions (1-888-GO-SABRES). Sabres season ticketholders are also encouraged to reach out to their dedicated account representative with any inquiries."
Pegula Sports and Entertainment previously issued a press release that read: “With the COVID-19 situation continuing to unfold, we want to ensure our fans, staff and players that their safety is our top priority.
“We continue to monitor all information provided by federal, state and local health departments regarding COVID-19, and remain in contact with all pertinent leagues.
“Together, with our food service partner, Delaware North, we are taking all necessary actions advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help ensure the health and safety of our guests and employees.
“We encourage all of our fans to take the proper precautions prescribed by the CDC. We will continue to make updates as necessary.”
The Buffalo Sabres said, “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association has postponed the Alumni Wine Festival that was scheduled for today, March 12.
“The event will be rescheduled for a later date.”
A press release stated, “The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is committed to the health and safety of everyone at Kleinhans Music Hall. We are seriously monitoring the global situation and receiving updates from the Center for Disease Control, Erie County Health Department, and New York State public health officials.
“We are taking extra precautionary measures by providing additional hand sanitizers throughout the building, particularly in high traffic areas. Additionally, our custodial staff is routinely disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, handles, elevator keypads, etc. We may be making adjustments to food and beverage service during our morning Coffee Concerts and other receptions as well, as necessary on a case by case basis.
“All concerts are currently taking place as scheduled, and all standard ticketing policies are in effect. In the event of a very unlikely cancellation, we will notify all ticketholders by e-mail and phone at least 2–3 hours before the concert. The latest updates will be posted on bpo.org, and our outgoing phone message will also be updated if there are any changes to the schedule.
“Should patrons have questions, they are encouraged to contact the BPO Box Office at (716) 885-5000 or [email protected].”
HALLWALLS issued this email on Thursday:
“Because of our organization’s mission to unite the public through a shared experience of art and creativity, we need to pay close attention to the CDC’s guidelines with respect to large public gatherings.
“All Hallwalls events including our concert in Asbury Hall this evening, and our exhibition opening tomorrow will continue as scheduled, with enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place.
“We are paying close attention to what County Executive Poloncarz and Erie Co. Health Commissioner Gale Burstein advise, because they are highly competent, prepared, trustworthy, and communicative.
“We are continuing to plan exhibitions, concerts, and other events for the duration of 2020 and beyond. We will continue to evaluate our choices regarding hosting larger-scale events, all in consideration of CDC and local government guidance.
“The world is dealing with an issue of enormous scale and impact on the human race, and our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Thank you SO MUCH for your continued support.
“We hope to see you soon...maybe tonight?”
The National Basketball Association on Wednesday announced it is suspending the season. The statement was issued upon news a Utah Jazz player preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19.