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St. Lawrence University, Canton. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — St. Lawrence University is implementing a fully remote instruction model through the end of the semester after wastewater testing again detected traces of the novel coronavirus, and eight new cases were confirmed this week.

In a Thursday message to the campus community, SLU officials announced the university’s operating status has changed from low risk to moderate risk and that all classes through the end of the on-campus semester will be remote, effective immediately.

With four operating risk statuses — low, moderate, higher, highest — the university has remained at low risk for the majority of the semester.

Hagi Bradley, dean of student life, and Karl Schonberg, dean of academic affairs, wrote a “full investigation” into unauthorized weekend gatherings is ongoing, adding mask wearing, social distancing and following gathering restrictions is crucial to the public health of the university and Canton community.

The decision to adjust instruction, according to SLU officials, was made in consultation with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department and Dr. Andrew F. Williams, president of the county Board of Health.

SLU’s wastewater surveillance testing, a partnership with Clarkson University in Potsdam, indicated virus presence in four residence halls last week, prompting a temporary shift to remote instruction. The latest round of sampling indicated virus presence in Hulett Hall. Three other residences were directed to quarantine as they await test results — Kappa Delta Sigma, Tri-Delta House and Commons College. Large weekend parties were confirmed to have occurred on campus.

The precautionary quarantine for Hulett Hall was lifted Wednesday, and students still in quarantine are required to stay in their rooms or suites unless they are being tested for COVID-19 or picking up meals during designated hours.

This month’s sampling results follow the detection of virus traces from wastewater taken from Hulett and Lee residence halls in October, when a similar quarantine was implemented.

Since Aug. 17, SLU has conducted 18,149 individual COVID-19 tests and set up weekly wastewater surveillance testing. Nine cases are currently active, with 402 tests pending. The university reports 62 of those pending tests have been submitted by students in residence hall precautionary quarantines.

SLU is prohibiting students in precautionary quarantine from leaving campus for the semester until they have received a negative test result. The Thanksgiving break begins Tuesday at 5 p.m., and cleared students are required to take all belongings with them, as the semester will conclude with planned virtual learning and remote finals in December.

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