Understanding the Current COVID Data and Remaining Committed to Good Public Health

Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff:

You have likely noticed the very positive data and trends reported on the Syracuse University COVID dashboard over the past several weeks. I call your attention to a few important data points:

·         The number of new cases being reported daily has declined and held constant at very low levels.

·         For two consecutive weeks, the seven-day COVID test positivity rate among those participating in our random surveillance program had held steady at 0.4% and this past week, it dropped to 0.2%.

·         Results from the University’s ongoing wastewater surveillance program affirm declining levels of on-campus transmission.

This is positive news. Our collective efforts, including your commitment to a vaccinated campus and adherence to ongoing COVID prevention protocols, are paying off. Thank you.

At the same time, the positive data and trends detailed above have generated questions about the University’s masking policy and what conditions would prompt the Public Health Team to recommend moving from the current RED-level masking requirement to a lesser masking status.

As I have shared before, there is no single metric or threshold that—by itself—would trigger a change to the COVID masking alert level. Instead, adjustments to the COVID masking framework are based on an ongoing assessment of campus and community testing data, wastewater surveillance, contact tracing information and other factors indicative of COVID prevalence and transmission within the campus and Central New York community. Many of the measures that the Public Health Team considers are, by most accounts, trending in a positive direction. However, the public health situation across Onondaga County and Central New York remains problematic. Specifically, Onondaga County has:

·         Reported 1,505 new COVID cases in the most recent seven-day period—or an average of 215 new cases per day.

·         Experienced a 5.1% positivity rate for the most recent seven-day period. This is significantly higher as compared to the period leading up to Aug. 28, the day we cited concern over increasing cases in the community as one of the major reasons for moving to the RED-level masking requirement on campus.

Given the current level of COVID infection and transmission within the Central New York community, the University’s Public Health Team continues to advise we remain at the RED-level masking status. Should the public health conditions in the broader Central New York community significantly improve, we expect to be in a position to reevaluate our current masking requirements. The Public Health Team will continue to monitor campus and community COVID data and recommend future changes to the masking requirement.

Thank you again for your collective efforts to keep our campus safe.
J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation