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Ulster County reports first coronavirus case in County; no known link to SUNY New Paltz

Posted on: Sunday, March 8, 2020 at 2:03 PM

Dear Members of the Campus Community:

Campus leadership is aware that Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan has reported today that a county resident has tested “presumptive positive” for the novel coronavirus. The county, which includes New Paltz, has confirmed that this individual has no known connection to SUNY New Paltz. The county is working with state health officials to further research the travel history of this individual and learn who else he has encountered. The county will be in touch directly with those individuals. 

Please be aware that campus leadership and our coronavirus task force are monitoring the situation and will provide further updates on containing and mitigating the risk to our campus community as it becomes available. 
State officials report they are working to do more testing as quickly as possible to find the people who are infected and help contain the spread of the virus. They note that there are going to be more cases because health officials are testing more people and that will provide the facts necessary to manage the situation. State officials say about 80 percent of those infected will self-resolve.  
This development reinforces the fact that Coronavirus can be contracted in countries other than those designated by the CDC as Level 2 and Level 3,  as France is not currently a Level 2 or Level 3-designated country. For this reason, we ask members of the campus community to reconsider very seriously plans to travel over spring break, either internationally or domestically, given the rapidly changing nature of this situation. Here again is the campus guidance regarding travel this spring:

Spring Break and Spring Travel by All Campus Constituents

We ask all campus community members to consider carefully any plans to travel during spring break, as such movement increases the risk for encountering those who may have come in contact with the virus.

Effective immediately, the College has cancelled all campus-sponsored and official campus international travel for faculty, staff and students to CDC Level 2 or higher level countries or areas (as of today, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Japan and China).  We will be working closely with affected individuals to mitigate financial impacts. Anyone, employee or student, anticipating travel to CDC Level 2 or 3 countries (see above list) over spring break or during the spring 2020 semester, is strongly discouraged from doing so. As new countries or areas of the United States are added to CDC level 2 and 3 classifications, the same College-mandated travel restrictions will apply. Anyone who does travel to such areas will be required to notify their local health department, self-quarantine for 14 days and will not be permitted to come to campus for two weeks upon their return. The CDC is also discouraging cruise ship travel to or within Asia. Those traveling by ship elsewhere should be mindful that their itineraries may be impacted as well.

Quarantine means students will not be able to live in a residence hall or attend all seated classes during that two-week period. We ask faculty to work with students who are under self-quarantine to assist them in making up work they may have missed or continue to work with them through online means. We also ask faculty to relax class attendance policies to reinforce the importance that ill students not attend class to prevent infecting others.

Employees should alert their supervisor about any such personal travel plans as you will need to use sick leave while under the two-week period quarantine. Teaching faculty will need to make arrangements with chairs for substitute teaching or online teaching during those first two weeks after spring break or other spring travel. We are seeking guidance on whether working from an alternate work site (not on campus) could be permissible. 

The College is mandating that any students or employees with travel plans out-of-state or internationally for official campus business register at the following link. Those with personal travel plans out-of-state or internationally are strongly encouraged to register as well. The task force will use these plans to allow us to support you upon your return and to coordinate communication. The task force will not be sharing this information broadly. While redundant, plans also should be reported to supervisors and shared with vice presidents.

Students and employees engaging in personal travel over spring break and this spring semester should note that CDC alert level designations are rapidly evolving. As such, your travel plans may be impacted and you may be subjected to public health-based restrictions upon return to the U.S. or New York. It is also possible that CDC restrictions regarding domestic travel could be mandated.

CDC-Recommended Precautions

Coronavirus is thought to be transmitted primarily in two ways:
  1. Through person-to-person contact when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes;
  2. From contact with infected surfaces or objects by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, using your elbow if a tissue is unavailable.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. (The campus has initiated heightened cleaning protocols focused on frequently touched surfaces in public spaces; office staff may use their P Cards to purchase CDC-approved disinfectant wipes or alcohol-based hand-sanitizer).
  • Social distancing (efforts to limit where and when people come together).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

If You are Experiencing Symptoms Consistent with Coronavirus

We ask students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with coronavirus, including fever over 100 degrees, cough and shortness of breath, to call rather than visit the Student Health Center. Faculty and staff should contact their primary doctor. The Student Health Center is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 3:30 p.m.  If you are a student and experiencing symptoms, please call the Student Health Center to review your symptoms and make health care decisions. The Student Health Center does not have the ability to test for coronavirus. Students who meet the criteria for testing will be sent to local hospitals. Student Affairs will coordinate housing and food arrangements. Employees experiencing symptoms as outlined above should consult with a primary care physician.  If a medical provider confirms that you tested positive for coronavirus, please call the Benefits Office 845-257-3169 or 845-257-3165 and your supervisor to advise them of your status.  Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion will work with you and your supervisor to identify the appropriate employment steps in your case.

Donald P. Christian, President
Scott Schulte, Director, Emergency Management


Message originally distributed via: Campus Update