Virus uptick prompts Binghamton U. to suspend on-campus classes

A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States. (NIAID-RML)

Binghamton University will suspend in-person classes Thursday for two weeks amid a local increase in coronavirus cases. The Southern Tier school becomes the latest college in New York to switch to remote classes or to tighten rules to try to slow the spread of the virus.

"We remain committed to in-person instruction for the fall semester and will work to make our transition back to in-person activities as quickly as we can under Department of Health guidelines while ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff," read a statement from university president Harvey G. Stenger.

Binghamton University reported 89 positive tests in the current two-week reporting period, below the 100-case threshold for state colleges to halt classroom instruction. But school officials say the move will help contain the virus. The campus will remain open. 

The move comes a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a nearby section of the Binghamton area will be among several COVID-19 "hot spots" in the state subject to tighter pandemic-control restrictions. 

Also Tuesday, Syracuse University said it would temporarily suspend all in-person activities except classes and some sports after the university linked a cluster of 45 coronavirus cases to an off-campus party held last week. 

Vice Chancellor J. Michael Haynie also set a five-person limit on off- or on-campus gatherings, down from 25 people allowed before, and urged fraternities and sororities to adopt a no-visitors policy.

"This is a serious situation," Haynie said in a letter to the campus community.

The State University of New York at Cortland announced a two-week shift to remote learning Monday just as SUNY Oswego resumed in-person classes.

SUNY Oneonta closed its campus Sept. 3 and shifted to online classes for the rest of the fall semester.

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