COVID infections on rise at area colleges

Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam, in partnership with municipal officials and public health partners, mounted banners on light poles in downtown Potsdam in February. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — With the fall semester a few days underway, COVID-19 cases at north country colleges are climbing.

A combined 132 active cases across the four Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley were recorded as of Thursday afternoon.

St. Lawrence University students, faculty and staff account for 88 of those cases — 83 students and five employees. The university remains at a yellow operating status, for moderate risk, within its four-tier system: from green for low risk, to red for highest risk to in-person learning.

Since Aug. 11, according to SLU’s testing dashboard, more than 4,800 novel coronavirus tests have been administered, with 902 test results pending as of Thursday.

COVID-19 vaccinations are required for SLU students to be on campus, unless a medical or religious exemption was approved prior to the semester.

With the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the State University of New York is requiring students taking in-person classes on all SUNY campuses to be vaccinated.

At SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam, where 17 and 26 total cases are active, respectively, students have until Sept. 27 to complete a vaccine series. For SUNY employees, the state is so far only encouraging vaccination.

Clarkson University reports one active case, an employee positive confirmed before classes started on Monday. More than 98% of Clarkson students and 99% of employees are fully vaccinated.

“Mask wearing right now is about being part of a caring community and not just about individual health and choices,” Clarkson officials wrote in a Wednesday message. “While it is required to wear a mask on campus as posted, it is the best personal habit we can each follow everywhere we go right now when we are interacting with people outside of our family unit both on campus and off campus.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes breakthrough cases — infection among the vaccinated — are expected, but that most new COVID-19 cases are among the unvaccinated population. The CDC and public health agencies across the country report COVID-19 vaccines prevent people from getting severely ill if infected and significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.

The CDC is assigning one of four COVID-19 transmission levels — low, moderate, substantial or high — in line with a county’s number of new cases per 100,000 people in a given week. Substantial classification equates to between 50 and 99 new cases; high classification means at least 100 new cases in a seven-day period.

In counties where transmission is substantial or high, the CDC recommends wearing masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.

Three of New York’s 62 counties — Essex, Schuyler and Wyoming — are listed as having substantial transmission this week. The rest of the state is logging high transmission.

Online dashboards for case counts and recoveries at each of the Associated Colleges are live, and fall updates are viewable on each institution’s website.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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