Here we are: It’s 2020 at the start of the holiday season and the COVID-19 pandemic is looking more than ever like a good bet to get worse before it gets better.
Thousands of State University of New York students last week took their final — not the kind with essays and multiple-choice questions — but their last mandated coronavirus test as they prepare to return home until the spring semester, which may or may not begin in February depending on the perfidy of COVID-19.
The surging disease’s impact can’t be doubted. The state’s 64-campus higher education system ordered all 140,000 students taking in-person classes or those who frequent gyms, libraries or dining halls to test for the novel coronavirus before leaving for Thanksgiving recess. Most students will not return to in-person instruction until the scheduled start of SUNY’s spring semester Feb. 1. Travel to and from campuses between Thanksgiving and Christmas is more or less banned.
Sure, SUNY strengthened its testing requirements after the college at Oneonta shifted to remote learning for the entire fall semester Sept. 3 after more than 700 students tested positive and five were suspended in connection with large parties.
The priority was conducting hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests this semester with saliva, instead of nasal swab, samples analyzed for positives in a pooled method of multiple samples thanks to innovative work from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
Despite SUNY’s achievements, college and university towns, the Capital Region and all of New York state remain vulnerable to COVID-19’s inexorable spread. The real test comes this week as the Thanksgiving holiday pushes us to find the discipline we need to wear masks, social distance and avoid travel.