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Newsmaker of the month: Quick actions cool COVID-19 outbreaks

State University of New York at Fredonia President Dr. Stephen Kolison welcomes Chancellor Jim Malatras to the campus on Sunday. Submitted Photo

It seemed as though a disaster was imminent. State University of New York institutions began reopening during the middle of August and those returning to campuses appeared to be a bit too carefree.

At Oneonta, five students were immediately suspended Aug. 30 after a large gathering. There, the campus never recovered.

As of Friday, there were 684 total positive cases at the college. Not only did that put other students at risk, it also raised plenty of red flags in the community.

Closer to home, SUNY Fredonia was facing a similar battle. During the same weekend where suspensions were happening at Oneonta, parties also were taking place off campus here.

Within days, new President Dr. Stephen Kolison Jr. took significant steps to send a message that resonated throughout the region. The university suspended 13 students for violating the Student Code of Conduct relating to COVID-19 and off-campus gatherings.

“Throughout the preparations for — and start of — the Fall 2020 semester, Fredonia encouraged wearing facial coverings and social distancing. We also talked honestly about repercussions for not following the rules,” Kolison and Dr. Cedric B. Howard, vice president of enrollment and student services, said in a joint letter to the campus. “Any Fredonia student who endangers others by disregarding public health precautions will face serious penalties. Those who fail to respect their responsibility to our community during the pandemic will find that the Student Code of Conduct and local governmental restrictions will be enforced.”

What a difference a month makes, which included a visit by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras on Sept. 6 when the institution had recorded 63 positive cases. Since that major spike that coincided with another one in Dunkirk, the numbers have slowed. As of Friday, there were 104 cases.

SUNY officials knew, especially after Oneonta, COVID-19 was threatening learning environments and campus life. If it did not take harsh measures that included the tough decisions of suspensions, who knows where we would be today.

Students are definitely doing their part by wearing facial coverings so they are taking it seriously as well.

This is good for those partipating in getting a higher education — and it definitely helps this community.

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