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Study abroad students detoured to Brockport

by Alex Hutton - Staff Writer
Wed, Mar 11th 2020 11:00 am
Several SUNY students are being quarantined on The College at Brockport's campus in Gordon Hall. Photo Credit: Brianna Bush/ Editor-in-Chief
Several SUNY students are being quarantined on The College at Brockport's campus in Gordon Hall. Photo Credit: Brianna Bush/ Editor-in-Chief

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday, March 3, that all SUNY and CUNY students in China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Iran will return home and be quarantined for 14 days as a precaution due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.  The precautionary quarantine is to be done either at home or on one of the three designated SUNY campuses. The College at Brockport was selected as one of those campuses Friday, March 6. 

There are about 300 SUNY students and faculty in those five countries, none of which are from The College at Brockport. They were flown back to John F. Kennedy Airport, then bused to one of the locations and quarantined in vacant dorm rooms. 

Brockport can accommodate up to 95 students. The campus prepared for the potential housing of these students in Gordon Hall on Thursday, March 5, and 18 students arrived early Sunday morning, with 14 more arriving by Tuesday morning. None of the students have tested positive for COVID-19 but have visited high risk countries and must be precautionarily quarantined.

“I am writing to confirm that SUNY Brockport will host several study abroad students returning back from Italy who left the country due to the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Brockport President Heidi Macpherson said in a campus-wide email. “While here, SUNY will spare no expense to make sure these students are provided with every resource needed to mak their precautionary quarantine as comfortable as possible. We are working very closely with local and state health departments to ensure these students are frequently monitored and screened.” 

Macpherson also mentioned the safety, health and welfare of the community is the campus’s “first priority,” and Gordon Hall is unoccupied, meaning no Brockport student will have contact with those being quarantined. 

Additionally, both SUNY and CUNY have canceled all campus-sponsored travel outside the U.S. to impacted countries for the spring semester. Suspending all programs to these countries was based on a recommendation from the NYS DOH. 

All five countries have been issued a level 2 or level 3 travel notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Level 3 is the highest warning level, indicating to avoid non-essential travel to this destination. Level 2 indicates to practice enhanced precautions for this destination, and level 1 indicates to practice usual precautions.

As the virus spreads and things are changing all campus-sponsored travel outside the U.S. to impacted countries for the spring semester. Suspending all programs to these countries was based on a recommendation from the New York State Department of Health.

All five countries have been issued a level 2 or level 3 travel notice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Level 3 is the highest warning level, indicating to avoid non-essential travel to this destination. Level 2 indicates to practice enhanced precautions for this destination, and level 1 indicates to practice usual precautions.

As the virus spreads and things are changing daily; it’s hard to predict the future of Brockport’s study abroad programs. The college has many trips planned for the summer session to countries such as France, Mexico and Russia. All of the 10 plus countries, besides Italy, are currently a level 1 travel risk. 

“I can’t say we wouldn’t [have study abroad programs next semester],” SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson said at a press conference on Thursday, March 5. “I would be surprised if we didn’t; it just depends on where we are, this is a pretty fluid situation. Two weeks ago, Italy was not a level 3 country and now it is, so it really depends on how things materialize over the next few months.”

SUNY will be working with the DOH and following the guidelines of the CDC to make decisions about canceling upcoming international campus sponsored travel.

“We’re working around the clock; the primary concern that we have is making sure that our students are safe, that we bring them home and they continue to be safe,” Johnson said during the press conference.  “We are still looking at where the sites will be where the students will be quarantined for 14 days. We are working right now with the DOH at the state to see where they can be quarantined. It’s a pretty fluid situation right now.”

SUNY has developed a COVID-19 task force with five different workstreams focusing on everything from academic programs and resources for students returning to the country and the facilities the students will be housed in. 

“Our biggest priority is the safety and health of the students, staff and faculty, the ones that are studying right now in level two and three countries,” Johnson said. “And when they come back, working with the local and state department of health to make sure that we keep the citizens safe, too.”

With cases of the virus growing in New York State by the day and a panicked population, Cuomo reassured residents that the threat level in the state is still low. 

“There is no reason for undue anxiety — the general risk remains low in New York,” Cuomo said in a press release on March 1. “We are diligently managing this situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”

Emily Nojeim, a public health major at Brockport, disagrees, saying there is cause for anxiety since the threat is coming to Brockport’s campus. 

“It’s hard to not feel anxiety when it’s coming so close to home,” Nojeim said. “I don’t like it at all; I don’t feel comfortable. Why would you put possibly infected people on a college campus where more can get infected? I don’t think that they should be put on our campus.”

Nojeim also said she would prefer classes become available online, as she would feel uncomfortable with the quarantined students on campus.

“I want my teachers to make my classes fully online if that’s the case, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to campus,” Nojeim said. “I would feel more at risk for the virus than I need to be, especially since no one coming back from studying abroad is from Brockport. Now we’re all susceptible to this.”

In a campus-wide email sent from the president’s office, instructors were encouraged to update their blackboard account and create a backup plan in the event that future instruction needs to go online. 

The Stylus will continue to provide updates as they become available. 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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