SUNY Cortland pauses athletic activities and some Greek events due to COVID-19

Press release from SUNY Cortland Director of public relations Frederic Pierce

In light of a recent increase in the number of students testing positive for COVID-19, SUNY Cortland is pausing all activity by athletic teams, effective immediately for at least one week. After seven days, it will be re-evaluated. The pause, a collaborative decision made by SUNY Cortland and the Cortland County Health Department, is being taken out of an abundance of caution, and to permit the investigation of new cases as the contact tracing process proceeds.

Similarly, three Greek organizations at SUNY Cortland have been notified that they are prohibited from hosting any in-person events or gatherings, either on or off campus, for the next 14 days.

These precautionary actions were taken in response to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests. During the last week, the number of active positive cases among SUNY Cortland students rose from six to 22. Although the vast majority of students are asymptomatic, this uptick in cases is cause for real concern, given the rapid growth in caseloads we’ve seen on other campuses, most notably SUNY Oneonta, which has recorded 700 positive cases.

Our approach to containing outbreaks includes a number of strategies, such as isolating people with the infection and quarantining all those who recently came into close contact with people who have COVID-19.  Additional strategies may include quarantining larger groups of people even if they have not met the formal definition of a close contact.  Examples of this type of quarantining has already occurred on campus, and can affect members of an entire classroom, housing complex or athletic team.

The competitive season for all fall sports was cancelled before the semester started due to the pandemic. Modified team practices and activities, however, continued until today. It should be noted that our athletics department has done an amazing job designing practices that adhere to all safety measures, and that student athletes, for the most part, have been very compliant with the public health practices expected of all of us. But it doesn’t take many careless individuals to create an outbreak, and we know that certain social, recreational and athletic factors related to group activity can help spread the virus. We want to be clear that this pause is a public health measure, not a punitive action. It is a risk-reduction strategy that all of us hope is short-lived.

Since athletics is only one source of concern, additional measures affecting other university groups, and potentially the entire campus, could become necessary if the numbers continue to increase.  In order to reduce the likelihood of this occurring, we once again ask students to practice physical distancing, refrain from non-essential travel and avoid non-essential visitors.  All social interactions and gatherings should follow distancing recommendations and face coverings should be worn whenever one ventures out of their private space.

The stakes for carelessness are enormous. A single poor decision could lead to another person’s death, a health crisis for you, your friends and acquaintances and the end of on-campus operations for the remainder of 2020. Visit SUNY Cortland’s Restart Webpage for more information.