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SUNY To Require Negative COVID-19 Tests Before Students Can Travel For Thanksgiving

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The State University of New York announced Tuesday a new testing mandate.

All on-campus students must test negative for coronavirus before they can go home for Thanksgiving break.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports, SUNY's 64 colleges and universities have widely different COVID numbers. Oneonta has more than 700 cases. Famingdale State College - only seven positives since July.

But now, one rule will apply to all. SUNY students using on-campus facilities in any way must test negative for COVID-19 before they leave for Thanksgiving.

The mandate is intended to prevent the virus from spreading to hometowns.


"It's necessary. You don't want to bring it home to any family members," one student told Gusoff.

"There aren't many people in the class and the seats are really distant, so I wasn't too worried about it," said another.

But all 140,000 students must be tested within ten days of Thanksgiving break. Those who are positive will be quarantined on campus.

The man heading Stony Brook's COVID response says they'll have plenty of support.

"It includes food, it includes laundry service, mental health, telehealth counseling. We've got it down to a science, for the most part," said Stony Brook University VP of Campus Safety Larry Zacarese.

Testing will be done "as close to a student's departure date as possible," and students advised to to "leave campus the moment they receive a negative result" and "strictly limit contact" between their test date and departure.

"It will definitely be challenging for everyone not to see each other, but I think testing is definitely necessary," one student said.

Students say it will give their parents one less thing to pay for and worry about.

"Not only am I putting myself in danger, but my family at home too," one student said.

Students may get tested privately or use campus testing centers.

After Thanksgiving, the fall semester courses will continue completely remotely.

SUNY's chancellor says the policy drastically reduces the chances of COVID-19 community spread.

The mandate also strongly recommends SUNY faculty get tested in the days leading up to to Thanksgiving.

SUNY estimates nearly 3,150 positive cases among students and staff this fall. Meanwhile, 61 of its colleges and universities have conducted over 270,000 tests and reported about 1,400 positive cases.

Most SUNY universities didn't require students to get tested before returning to campus in August.

In Western New York, SUNY Geneseo's policy prevented students from arriving on campus if they didn't submit a negative COVID-19 test between seven to 14 days ahead of arrival on campus. The university, which typically enrolls about 6,000 students, has reported 48 virus cases this fall.

Universities that didn't pre-test students include SUNY Oneonta in central New York, which canceled in-person classes and sent students home in early September after off-campus parties sparked an outbreak. The university of about 6,000 has estimated more than 720 cases.

The chancellor has required every campus to conduct regular surveillance testing, and said accessing testing was a challenge for the system's campuses.


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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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