Published September 8, 2020
New SUNY Chancellor James Malatras visited UB on Sunday to meet with President Satish K. Tripathi and other presidents from local SUNY institutions to discuss campus-level and system-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as new approaches undertaken to mitigate its spread.
Joining Tripathi were SUNY Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner and SUNY Erie Community College Interim President William D. Reuter. City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Eunice A. Lewin of the SUNY Board of Trustees also attended the meeting, held at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
At a news briefing following the meeting, Malatras said all SUNY schools will now implement a pooled surveillance testing program already underway at UB, Buffalo State and a few other SUNY institutions, and developed by SUNY Upstate Medical Center.
He stressed that SUNY would enforce suspensions and other penalties among students who do not comply with campus health guidelines.
Malatras also announced the rollout of a new COVID-19 case tracker dashboard to provide real time, up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases, testing and quarantine and isolation space availability across SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities.
“This data is crucial to helping SUNY make quick, smart decisions that contain COVID-19 and protect our campus communities,” Malatras said.
In remarks to the news media, Malatras praised the leadership of Tripathi and other SUNY presidents in preparing their institutions for the pandemic and responding quickly to contain outbreaks.
“The great presidents of the Western New York region are true leaders,” Malatras said. “They have put forth robust plans to bring our students back safely and to instill confidence that we are doing things right…that we can remain open and safely.”
In speaking to the news media, Tripathi described steps UB has taken over the past week to further mitigate the spread of the coronavirus at the university. These include increasing testing on campus, updating the student conduct policy to enforce mandatory compliance with UB’s health guidelines, partnering with the city and the Buffalo Police Department to increase compliance among off-campus students, and launching a confidential COVID-19 phone line for students to report positive test results and receive assistance.
“Importantly, UB has been communicating our health and safety guidelines to our off-campus students,” Tripathi said. “Allow me to once again stress: This means no on-campus or off-campus parties. Violations of UB’s health and safety guidelines may result in suspension from the university.”
Tripathi also said UB is working with Erie County on a new program to test wastewater from campus buildings, which will show whether someone using a toilet in a UB building, such as a residence hall, has the virus.
Last week, UB’s internal analysis tracked the vast majority of its active coronavirus cases to students who live off-campus in the Heights District near the South Campus. UB has worked closely with Buffalo Police to reduce the occurrence of student parties there.
The university also confirmed with SUNY that only “on-campus” positive cases among students and employees count toward the 100-case metric set by the state Department of Health. Reaching 100 or more on-campus cases would trigger a 14-day shift to remote learning at UB.
As of Sunday, UB had 43 confirmed positive on-campus cases, which includes students living in the residence halls, off-campus students who have some in-person instruction, and employees who work on campus. The cases are updated each day on UB’s COVID-19 dashboard.
In a statement issued on Friday, Malatras confirmed that the majority of cases at UB are among fully online students, which are not factored into the 100 metric, and he commended UB’s leadership for continuously acting swiftly to protect the UB community.