By the University at Buffalo
The University at Buffalo is preparing its plans to administer COVID-19 testing to on-campus students prior to the Thanksgiving break, per an announcement by State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras.
As part of UB’s plan, a COVID-19 test will be administered to UB undergraduate, graduate and professional students who reside on campus, or have taken at least one class on UB’s North, South or downtown campuses, or use on-campus services such as dining halls, libraries or fitness facilities, or work on any of UB’s campuses.
SUNY is requiring that on-campus students be tested within 10 days of a campus’ closing of in-person instruction for the fall semester. At UB, in-person instruction for most students ends Nov. 24.
UB’s plan will be submitted to SUNY by Nov. 5. UB will communicate the details of the plans to students and other members of the university community upon approval by SUNY.
The university is assessing how many UB undergraduate, graduate and professional students will need to receive a COVID-19 test by Nov. 25, when students return home and the university shifts to fully remote instruction, as planned, for the remainder of the fall semester.
“These tests will provide a measure of confidence for students returning home for Thanksgiving. However, we must still stress the importance of our students doing at home what has helped reduce the spread of the virus at UB: Wear a mask, practice social distancing, do not gather in large groups, and wash your hands frequently,” said Michael E. Cain, M.D., dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and chair of the university’s screening, testing and contact tracing protocol committee.
Per SUNY’s guidance, the university will not test students who do not come to campus. Students who provide documentation of a COVID-19 test result during the 10-day period specified by SUNY also will not need to be tested; nor will students who provide documentation of a previous positive COVID-19 test.
UB faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to also get a COVID-19 test prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, but it is not mandated by SUNY.
Per the SUNY mandate, UB will make plans to quarantine students who live in a residence hall and test positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed to the virus within 14 days before closing for the fall semester.
At UB, dedicated teams of people from across the university have been working around the clock each day to reduce the spread of the virus and keep students, faculty and staff safe. As of Oct. 27, UB had conducted about 13,000 coronavirus tests, including more than 8,800 surveillance tests. The university is now conducting about 2,500 tests per week.
UB has seen a significant decline in the number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the fall semester. Officials attribute it to the university community’s cooperation with UB’s health and safety guidelines, and a surveillance testing program to detect asymptomatic cases before they spread on campus.
As of Oct. 27, UB’s COVID-19 dashboard shows just five on-campus positive cases for the two-week period that runs Oct. 24 to Nov. 6 and there were just 18 positive cases Oct. 10 to 23.
During previous two-week periods this fall, there were upward of 70 on-campus positive cases. Hitting a threshold of 100 positive cases in a two-week period would trigger a temporary transition to fully remote learning, per SUNY guidelines. Only a few SUNY schools have needed to make this transition to date.
According to the dashboard, UB’s rolling 14-day count of positive cases is at its lowest point for on-campus cases (18) since the first week of the semester, with only six students from residence halls currently positive. Most UB students who test positive have mild symptoms; the university is not aware of more serious cases among its student body.
Off-campus positive cases have declined markedly, as well. Only 11 students who live off campus and are taking classes entirely remotely have tested positive in the past 14 days.
The decline results from a concerted effort by UB Student Life staff to discourage off-campus parties and reflects students’ cooperation and compliance with UB’s health guidelines. A communication campaign to discourage student parties on Halloween weekend, and inform them of the consequences of noncompliance under UB and SUNY policy, began this week.
UB’s COVID-19 dashboard is updated each day from reports provided to the university by the Erie County Health Department, and corroborated with information gathered by the university from Student Health Services, the Division of Athletics and UB’s reporting hotline.