COVID cases going down at local colleges

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

POTSDAM — COVID-19 cases at north country colleges have swelled over the last two weeks, with a combined 144 confirmed positives across the four Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley active as of Tuesday afternoon.

Clarkson University students, faculty and staff account for 97 of those cases, and the university last week reverted to Level I, for high risk, of its four-level campus alert system to curb the spread of the virus. Clarkson reported nine new cases Monday, with more than 200 students in mandatory quarantine.

Clarkson’s four-level system — Level I for high risk, Level II for moderate risk, Level III for low-to-moderate risk and Level IV for low risk — is based on health and safety compliance, case numbers, wastewater surveillance trends and public health guidelines. Each level carries new maximum limits for non-essential gatherings, maximums decreasing as the risk level increases.

Similarly, St. Lawrence University operates at one of four levels, from green for low risk, to red for highest risk of in-person learning.

Clarkson classes and gatherings have shifted to fully virtual formats, fitness facilities are closed, athletic competition is paused and campus visitors are prohibited through at least Feb. 22.

SUNY Potsdam, with 24 active cases, began in-person classes for the semester on Monday, but other in-person restrictions are still in place. Dining halls, residence hall lounges and recreational facilities remain closed.

In Canton, 18 cases at SUNY Canton and five at St. Lawrence University are active as of Tuesday. St. Lawrence University remains at yellow status, moderate risk, in its four-level system.

As part of spring restart plans, the four colleges are beginning regular surveillance testing to track cases and monitor campus infection rates. Mid-semester and spring breaks are canceled and replaced with scheduled reading days disbursed throughout the semester.

Since Aug. 1, the Associated Colleges have conducted a total of more than 84,000 individual student and staff virus tests, and campus wastewater surveillance testing systems have been installed at Clarkson, SLU and SUNY Canton.

Online dashboards for case counts and recoveries at each school are live, and full spring restart plans and updates are viewable on each institution’s website.

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