Cuomo Closes CUNY and SUNY

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that all CUNY and SUNY colleges will transition to a “distance-learning model” on March 19 in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, or Novel Coronavirus, in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“We want to reduce density,” Cuomo said at a press conference earlier today. “The CUNY/SUNY campuses . . . they will be releasing students to the best of their ability starting March 19. If students have hardships where they have nowhere to go, and they’re dorm students, then I’m sure an individual campus would take that into consideration.”

This distance-learning model means that classes for the roughly 424,051 students that go to SUNY and 274,000 students that go to CUNY will have to be moved completely online by the 19th, giving the colleges eight days, including the weekend, to pull it off.

CUNY has since announced that there will be an instructional recess for all 25 of its campuses beginning tomorrow and ending on March 18, meaning there will be no in-person classes for the rest of the semester.

Cuomo did say that there may be exceptions to the remote instructional model, such as for laboratory science classes that need to be conducted in-person.

As for the colleges that are currently on Spring break and are supposed to return to classes before March 19, the governor said that it doesn’t make sense for the students to have to attend class for two or so days and then go online, but that it is up to the individual schools to sort that out.

“Different schools can calibrate it differently,” he said.

He admitted that his office did not have a plan for sports teams and athletic events.

“What we are trying to do, in coordination with SUNY and CUNY, is to reduce the congregation of large numbers of people in classroom settings, so students will be able to return home if that’s what they want to do and continue their studies at a distance, either through online or other mechanisms,” said Elizabeth Garvey, Cuomo’s Special Counsel and Senior Advisor.

In addition to his announcement about the university systems, Cuomo also discussed the state’s plan for testing and containing the virus, which has acquired 39 new cases in New York state alone.

As of the time of the governor’s press conference, there were 212 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the state, 48 of which are in the city. The hope is that closing the public university systems and encouraging people to stay home and off the MTA will help to contain the spread of the virus.

“The overall game plan is that we’re operating on three tracks,” Cuomo said. “First is testing, second is reducing density to reduce the rate of infection and the third is communicating with the people of this state so that they know the actual facts versus the hype, versus the hysteria, versus misinformation.”

He announced that New York State “is going to take matters into our own hands.” The state will begin contracting with private New York labs for additional testing of the virus and has already spoken with 28 labs for this purpose.

To date, the United States has conducted 5,000 tests for the Coronavirus, according to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. China has been doing 200,000 tests a day and South Korea has been doing 15,000 tests per day.

The governor also explained that his plan for reducing density extends beyond canceling in-person classes — he has also asked business owners, especially in the city, to operate remotely if they can and to change work shifts.

Additionally, Cuomo said that there has not been a decision made as of yet on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which was set to happen on March 17.

Nursing homes are being closely monitored, though not all have prohibited visitors as of yet.

More from Around New York