ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — University students traveling from states with high COVID-19 rates continue to grapple with the unknown as August quickly approaches. 

Coronavirus began to skyrocket in a number of states across the country in June. As a result, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order on June 24 that requires individuals traveling to New York from states with high COVID-19 rates to quarantine for 14-days. The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average. 

The restrictions currently apply to 22 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. 

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According to SBU’s Chief Communications Officer Tom Missel, 94 SBU students come from the states listed. Another portion of students come from other nations. 

More than 100 students have this decision to make soon: wait it out and hope the situation changes, or make plans to go back to Western New York earlier than anticipated. 

At least three students plan to do the latter. Presumably, others will too. 

Pat Jordan, a senior, said he plans to isolate himself at a relative's house two weeks before he is scheduled to return to campus. 

“I won't be able to work or do much for the last two weeks of summer if I have to quarantine,” he said. “I am very lucky to have options and places to stay where I won’t have to throw away money. It sucks that I have to do this.” 

Seniors Maggie Sweeney and Stevie Siluano, both from Southern California, plan to do the same. 

Sweeney said she plans to move into her off-campus apartment early and quarantine there, while Siluano said that she is traveling back East on July 27 as she originally planned. 

Sweeney added, “I totally understand the reasoning behind the travel restrictions. I think it’s a great idea. However, I think it will be hard to enforce as college kids will definitely want the freedom to leave campus at their own time. It’s so hard to imagine that all of these polices go exactly as planned, so I am fully prepared to expect the unexpected this semester.” 

Siluano commented, “I have a place to stay for 14 days and follow required public health protocols. I think it’s super smart. You can never be too cautious. New York was the hot spot for the longest time, and now roles are reversed. California is one of them. If roles were reversed, and California was the hot spot at the beginning, I would hope my state would do the same thing as New York. You never know what someone could be bringing with them.” 

Casey Decatur, also a senior, expressed similar sentiments. Decatur, however, does not plan to arrive in New York earlier. Instead, she will drive from her home in Florida in time for the start of the semester and quarantine for two weeks after her arrival. 

“Personally, I understand the concern and I have no problem doing that in order to keep other people and their families safe. I am taking tougher classes this semester, so it would be nice to be in class for the start, but online learning is totally doable for two weeks. All in all, I am just happy Bona’s is reopening.” 

Missel told TAPinto Greater Olean that the university is awaiting additional guidance from New York State, based on a proposal sent to the governor from higher education lobbyists in Albany, that will hopefully modify the current quarantine guidelines. Missel said the consensus among college officials across the state is that the policy, “must be modified to account for returning college students across New York.”

Missel said the university expects answers from the governor’s office in late July.

Cuomo’s office has not yet responded to TAPinto Greater Olean’s request for comment.

While the four students interviewed for this story have plans and places to stay, other students may not be as fortunate. According to SBU’s 25-page reopening plan, which was released Tuesday, students who may need to quarantine might be asked to do so at their own expense. 

Classes resume on Aug. 24, and move-in days for the majority of the student body will be staggered. Freshmen and transfer students will arrive on campus on Aug. 21. Returning students, meanwhile, will return on Aug. 22 or Aug. 23 depending on their last name. 

Jordan said a negative COVID-19 test result, which all students are required to have within 14 days of arriving on campus, should be enough to negate the quarantine. 

“I think telling people to quarantine at their own expense during a pandemic with the highest rate of unemployment is a joke,” he said. “There’s a whole campus full of dorm rooms and athletes are allowed to be on campus, but regular students aren’t? It doesn’t make any sense. Quarantining on campus would be a lot easier than in a hotel.”

Sweeney said the statement sounded intimidating. 

“As someone who may have to quarantine right away, I couldn’t imagine being a freshman,” she said. “Not knowing anyone at all and being kind of left out to dry. It’ll be interesting to see how the situations are actually handled. Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as it sounds.

For more information on the Coronavirus in the Greater Olean area, visit TAPinto Greater Olean's Coronavirus Updates page, which is updated continuously.

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