What Students Should Know: COVID-19 and Returning to Campus - Spring '21

As we return to campus in spring 2021, the University at Buffalo’s first priority is the health and safety of our campus community, including students, faculty and staff. The best way to maintain the safest environment possible throughout 2021 and beyond is for each of us to take steps to minimize the risk of transmission, not only for ourselves, but for all members of the SUNY community. This entails:

  • Wearing face coverings (masks).
  • Frequent hand washing.
  • Physical distancing.
  • Participating in testing and tracing.
  • Completing daily screenings.
  • Getting vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available.
  • Being mindful of our surroundings and the impact we have.

Any of us alone can spread this disease and cause harm to others. But all of us together can build a safe, healthy community where educational success is possible.

Here’s what you need to know and do as SUNY and UB welcome students back to campus in 2021:

Stay Informed

The university will conspicuously post reopening plans for faculty, staff and students to access. Information and updates about UB’s response to the pandemic will be posted on the university’s COVID-19 planning and response website. Additional information and resources specific to students are available in the online Student Guide. UB Forward, a digest of related news, updates and resources, is emailed weekly to all students, faculty and staff. Pertinent information is also regularly pushed out through UB’s social media channels.

Return to Campus Safely: Testing and Isolation Requirements

Testing and isolation requirements for most students include completion of a seven-day precautionary quarantine and documentation of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days prior to, or no later than five days after, returning to campus. Further details are provided on UB’s Return to Campus - Spring ’21 webpage.

Get Screened Daily

Everyone coming to campus, including students, must complete a daily health screening. Starting two weeks before their planned return to campus, all students, faculty and staff must complete a daily screening via the Daily Health Check to evaluate for travel history, COVID-19 history and COVID-19 symptoms. Students are required to continue completing the Daily Health Check throughout winter session and the spring semester if they live on campus, take one or more classes with an on-campus component, work on campus or use on-campus services such as dining, libraries or fitness facilities.

Get Tested Regularly

The university will continue the surveillance testing program that began in the fall for students, faculty and staff. Details are available on UB’s Surveillance Testing webpage.

Check the COVID-19 Dashboard

SUNY maintains a comprehensive dashboard of COVID-19 testing and infection rate status across the system and at each campus at suny.edu/covid19-tracker/. UB maintains its own COVID-19 Dashboard that serves as our university’s primary method for communicating positive cases.

Be Responsible: It’s Easy to Do Your Part

Each of us can take small steps to protect ourselves and the campus community. Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, these simple measures apply both on and off campus:

  • Wear face coverings (masks) at all times on campus, including in classrooms, conference rooms and other public spaces, even when you are able to maintain six feet of physical distancing.
    • Exceptions to this requirement include when students are in their private residential or personal space and when students are eating meals on campus while seated and physically distanced. Faculty and staff are likewise exempt when alone in their office or other private spaces.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer where soap and water are not available.
  • Practice physical distancing at all times to reduce transmission.
  • Stay home when you are sick or have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.

If Exposed, Complete Mandatory Quarantine and Isolation

Students who test positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, or are informed by a state or local health department, or medical or campus official that they are “at risk” for having COVID-19 will be required to quarantine or isolate. This will include taking classes remotely and not going to dining halls and other campus facilities. Specific information about restrictions can be found at buffalo.edu/studentlife/who-we-are/departments/health/covid-19.html#test. Students identified for quarantine and isolation may have access to certain assistance, such as the delivery of medicine, as well as psychosocial, academic and other support services. Residential students will receive assistance with living spaces, food delivery and other support through Campus Living. See the Quarantine Information for Students webpage for more information.

Follow the Rules or Face Disciplinary Action

When the campus learns of a violation of the rules associated with COVID-19 safety, students may lose access to campus facilities and/or campus housing. Other disciplinary actions may be taken by the Student Conduct and/or Human Resources Offices. Student conduct is governed by the campus Code of Conduct. Minimum sanctions are outlined in the Uniform Sanctioning in Response to COVID-19 Student Violations. Consistent with SUNY policy, students who are partially or completely removed from the institution due to a violation are not eligible for refunds.

Take Care of Yourself Physically and Mentally

We understand that this is an exceptionally challenging time. UB and SUNY have resources to help you get the support you need:

Understand What’s Being Offered on Campus and Online

Spring courses will be delivered as a mix of physically distanced, in-person classes and online instruction. UB has limited in-class student instruction to 25% capacity to help maintain a safe level of density on campus. Barring unforeseen circumstances, UB will offer students opportunities to participate in in-person, on-campus courses as part of their course schedule. Visit the Office of the Registrar website for more information on course offerings and registration.

Get Instructional and Technology Help

The Student Success Gateway is the starting point for information about advisors, resources, and strategies for academic success. Graduate students can find helpful information on the Graduate School’s site. All students can learn about the information technology services available on the Student Technology Guide, and help with specific tech questions and problems can be accessed from the UBIT support page.

Request Accommodations for Disabilities

Students who wish to disclose covered disabilities and receive reasonable accommodations for their disabilities should contact the Accessibility Resources department. UB’s Reasonable Accommodation Policy is available online.

Follow Housing and Dining Updates

Campus Living provides information and regular updates regarding on-campus housing operations and the role that residential students play in keeping our community healthy and safe. Appointment instructions will be emailed to students in January. Move-in for the spring semester will begin on Jan. 29. Earlier move-in dates will be available for students who need to complete quarantine on campus before the start of classes. Other important dates and notifications can be found on the Campus Living website.

Campus Dining and Shops (CD&S) will remain open and will follow all federal, state and local safety regulations, as well as UB’s health and safety guidelines. The dining format will depend on state and local health and safety regulations. This spring, CD&S is adding four new locations where students can use their meal plans via mobile ordering: Stacker’s, Blue Dragon at C3, The Bowl and Bravo Pasta II at The Cellar. Big Blue and Little Blue food trucks will also provide to-go dining options later in the semester. Visit Campus Dining and Shops for updates.

If We Have to Pause In-Person Instruction, Follow These Rules

If UB must switch to a two-week (or longer) pause, the following rules apply:

  • On-campus residence halls and apartments will remain open, and Campus Living services will remain available. During this time, residential students will be encouraged to remain in their dorms. Students living on campus will not be restricted from moving around campus during this time as long as they follow all health and safety guidelines.
  • Dining locations will remain open and will follow health and safety guidelines. Dining information will be posted at each location. Updates will be posted to the Campus Dining COVID-19 webpage.
  • Lockwood, Abbott and Silverman libraries will remain open to students, faculty and staff. All library study spaces will be monitored to ensure that building capacity does not exceed NYS guidelines and that groups do not gather. Most library services will also continue to be available remotely.
  • Transportation services will continue on a reduced schedule.
  • Essential student services, such as medical care and counseling, will continue.
  • 1Capen services will be delivered remotely.
  • UB will provide residential students with guidance for safely leaving and returning to campus.

See the Preparing for a Potential Pause in In-Person Instruction webpage for more information.

If We Have to Pivot to Remote Instruction, Follow This Plan

A permanent switch to remote instruction would require many of the same operational changes as detailed above. In the event that UB must switch to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester, the university will provide students with detailed information about remote instruction, residence hall move-out and applicable refunds for housing costs and fees as part of UB’s comprehensive transition plan.   

Changes and Updates

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creates a fluid situation that may require unexpected changes in our response. Updates to scientific knowledge, public health guidance, or laws and regulations may mean SUNY and UB have to make changes to standards and rules, including those indicated above. SUNY and UB will try to minimize these changes and their impact. We will keep you informed of new developments. For the latest news and updates, consult UB’s COVID-19 planning and response site.

Thank you in advance for everything you are doing and will do to make 2021 safe for yourself, your fellow students, the campus community and beyond.