College is the place where young people learn a lesson or two about life, so it appears that growing up in the age of the coronavirus is about to teach what could be an unpleasant lesson.
All on-campus State University of New York students — about 150,000 — must test negative for COVID-19 before leaving campus for Thanksgiving break. Stopping short of revealing the flip side, officials did not mention that students who test positive will spend their holiday recess in quarantine somewhere in their college town.
As dramatic a development as this seems, there are encouraging signs at a few colleges. The University at Albany has ramped up testing capacity to begin weekly testing of all on-campus students, faculty and staff starting Sunday.
UAlbany has about 11,500 regular students who live on campus, off-campus students who attend at least one in-person class, faculty and staff on site this semester. The Capital Region university conducted more than 14,300 rapid saliva tests since Sept. 1, with an estimated in-house positivity rate of about 0.5% to date.
Since the beginning of the fall semester, SUNY colleges and universities have tested more than 270,000 students with a positivity rate of 0.52%, which by the standards established by the Cuomo administration and health officials, is an excellent showing. Systemwide cases continue to trend downward, according to SUNY.
The real breakthrough is that SUNY’s COVID-19 policy, a deft combination of in-person classes, social distancing and remote learning, is stopping the spread of the coronavirus on the UAlbany campus and the campuses of other colleges. We could learn something from this.