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SUNY Fredonia planning for ‘safe semester’ in fall

OBSERVER File Photo The State University of New York at Fredonia.

This has been a summer like no other at the State University of New York at Fredonia, as the campus community has been meeting, planning and preparing for the return of students for the fall 2020 semester.

“We have been intentional in our collaboration to make sure students are returning to an environment that is as safe as possible, and have taken the necessary precautions to support them on-campus and in our community,” said Cedric Howard, vice president of Enrollment and Student Services. “A key component has been the Student Health Center working with the Chautauqua County Health Department to share information and synchronize plans.”

Part of the preparation in welcoming students back to Fredonia is an education campaign through direct emails, videos, websites and social media to make sure students and employees understand what is expected of them.

“We are using all tools at our disposal to get the information in front of students,” said interim President Dennis L. Hefner. “We have been honest with them that the campus will be a different place this fall, and everyone will need to do their part to keep others safe. It will be important for everyone to act in a responsible and respectful manner.”

Behaviors that will be required on campus for the fall semester — which are in keeping with Centers for Disease Control and SUNY guidelines — will include face coverings in all campus buildings, and social distancing of 6 feet whenever possible. Students and employees will also be required to do a daily health check before coming to work or classes.

Those behaviors are expected to be adhered to by students living or engaging in the community. Students have been reminded that the Student Code of Conduct applies to their behavior off-campus as well. The policy states

“All members of the University community share the responsibility for protecting and maintaining community health, safety, and the rights of other persons. Students are required to obey the statutes and laws of the nation and the state, as well as the ordinances and laws of the village of Fredonia, city of Dunkirk and the towns of Pomfret and Dunkirk. Conviction of a violation of such laws, statutes, or ordinances may be grounds for progressive sanctions as outlined in the student code process. The following conduct is prohibited: failing to comply with reasonable directions of University or town officials. This includes, but is not limited to, faculty, staff, Residence Hall Director, Resident Assistant, security, safety, fire officials, or police officers carrying out properly assigned responsibilities.”

SUNY Fredonia’s Infection Control Management Team spent the spring and summer developing quarantine and isolation plans, and the Student Health Center has worked with local health care facilities and the county Health Department.

“We will be working side-by-side when it comes to the students coming back,” said Debbie Dibble, director of the Student Health Center.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with SUNY Fredonia,” added Chautauqua County Public Health Director Christine Schuyler. “We serve in an advisory role for reopening. If there is a case of COVID-19, we will be responsible for disease investigation and contact tracing and I am confident in our ability to work collaboratively with the Health Center.”

Schuyler urges the younger population to avoid large gatherings, wear face coverings when socially distancing cannot be maintained and wash hands frequently. It is also critically important to avoid sharing things like drinks and e-cigarettes, as they can unintentionally transmit the virus. Environmental health inspectors will be going around to local bars and restaurants to remind owners about requirements and compliance before students return to the community.

A current social media campaign features current Fredonia students urging fellow students to follow all safety measures put in place and maintain those behaviors outside of class time as well. The campaign encourages students to be #FREDstrong. The campaign is at www.fredonia.edu/promise.

Regarding testing, Fredonia is following current guidelines to make returning to Fredonia as safe as possible. Current CDC guidelines state “testing of all students, faculty and staff for COVID-19 before allowing campus entry (entry testing) has not been systematically studied. It is unknown if entry testing in institutes of higher education provides any additional reduction in person-to-person transmission of the virus beyond what would be expected with implementation of other infection preventive measures (e.g., social distancing, cloth face coverings, hand washing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection). Therefore, CDC does not recommend entry testing of all returning students, faculty, and staff.”

A SUNY task force composed of medical experts from the four SUNY medical centers also advised against testing all returning students, faculty, and staff. That does not mean there will be zero testing. Rather, the task force emphasized “event testing,” which means whenever a student shows symptoms (the “event”), they would be tested immediately and then placed into isolation/quarantine until the test results come back. That is exactly how Fredonia’s plan is laid out, and what will be followed at the start of and throughout the semester. If a student tests positive, Fredonia will cooperate fully with the Chautauqua County Health Department in contact tracing. Fredonia now has 13 employees who have completed the Johns Hopkins University training program to be certified contact tracers.

Additionally, during move-in week, everyone will have their temperature taken prior to being allowed entry into the residence halls. Any student exhibiting an elevated temperature, or any other symptoms, will be immediately sent to the Student Health Center for evaluation and testing.

Fredonia has an extensive website filled with information surrounding the Fall 2020 semester. It is available at www.fredonia.edu/returning.

“In the end, we want everyone in the Big Blue Family — students, employees, and the Fredonia community — to feel that SUNY Fredonia is doing all it can to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Howard said.

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