COVID-19 is not over. SU needs to stop thinking it is.

This summer, Syracuse University decided not to track COVID-19 cases on campus in the fall semester. As a result, the SU community is not aware of active COVID-19 cases, blinding students to the reality of the pandemic. In previous years, SU tracked and published positive cases on the COVID-19 dashboard, but the university discontinued the site over the summer.

According to the State Department of Health, Onondaga County has a 7-day daily average coronavirus positive test rate of 8.1% — almost 3% higher than the rate in New York City. Onondaga County’s transmission rate is classified as “high.” SU must recognize the current severity of COVID-19 in Onondaga County.

The university prides itself on being a campus that’s friendly for students with all accommodations, but has forgotten their pledge to students safety. Not giving students accurate data does not reflect SU’s ideals to have an environment that is safe for all students. The university currently only asks students to self-report if they test positive, which is irresponsible.

While SU advertises as an accommodating campus, its COVID-19 policies are ableist and make immunocompromised students vulnerable. Immunocompromised students can’t protect themselves if they’re not aware of the positive cases on campus. SU students need the resources and tools to make educated decisions about COVID-19 precautions, which means the university must make COVID-19 statistics easily accessible.

The university should start updating the COVID-19 dashboard again because students deserve an overview of how the pandemic is affecting them, including current active cases, the total change in active cases, new student cases, new employee cases, students currently in quarantine and the surveillance positivity rate.

SU also needs to bring back randomized testing. As inconvenient as it may seem to students, randomized testing gave accurate rates of COVID-19 cases on campus. It also allowed SU to track students that may have been exposed to COVID-19. Self-reporting gives the illusion that SU is working to keep students updated on the positive cases, but that’s simply far from the truth.

SU should also widely publicize that the university provides students with COVID-19 tests, which all SU students’ insurances cover, at the Barnes Center at the Arch. Students can also purchase tests from designated vending machines across campus.

Currently, only students who live in dormitories receive quarantine accommodation. Students who live off campus with roommates are forced to either pay for a room at a nearby hotel, go home if they live close enough or risk spreading COVID-19 to their roommates. The university should provide free quarantine housing to all students who test positive for the virus.

As of Sept. 9, SU has 91 active COVID-19 cases on campus. The last time SU reported 91 or more cases of COVID-19 on campus was April 29. At the time, the university was under a “BLUE” COVID-19 alert level, under which the university strongly recommended masks while indoors and when in the presence of others. People who were not fully vaccinated were required to wear a mask at all times.

The “mask optional” policy that SU currently has in place shows a blatant disregard for SU students who are immunocompromised, who are now put at a higher risk because of the University’s policies.

The pandemic is far from over. SU needs to start providing students with the tools needed to safely overcome the ongoing pandemic. Bringing back randomized testing allows for the accuracy in the data rather than self-reported information. Finally, SU should encourage students to wear masks while in the classroom or in any academic settings.

COVID-19 is not over. Ignoring the severity of the pandemic makes SU oblivious, not proactive.

The Daily Orange Editorial Board serves as the voice of the organization and aims to contribute the perspectives of students to discussions that concern Syracuse University and the greater Syracuse community. The editorial board’s stances are determined by a majority of its members. You can read more about the editorial board here. Are you interested in pitching a topic for the editorial board to discuss? Email [email protected].

September 14, 2022 at 11:57 pm

Contact: [email protected]

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