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SUNY chief visits NCCC, which starts some in-person classes

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, left, talks with North Country Community College President Joe Keegan, right, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sarah Maroun in the college’s Connector on the Saranac Lake campus on Monday, Feb. 8. (Photo provided)

SARANAC LAKE — State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras visited North Country Community College’s Saranac Lake campus Monday, Feb. 8 as the college began testing of students, faculty and staff — some of whom started on-campus classes this Tuesday.

North Country began the spring semester Feb. 1 with the first two weeks of classes entirely remote. Most instruction will remain remote, but starting Tuesday, a limited number of North Country students — primarily those in the practical nursing, radiologic technology and massage therapy programs — are able to attend in-person classes.

Prior to doing so, these students must have a negative COVID-19 test, either through pooled saliva surveillance testing provided by the college or through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing from a provider. Students also must quarantine for seven days before returning to campus, complete a daily health assessment, wear masks at all times and maintain social distancing while on campus.

Malatras reviewed the college’s pooled surveillance testing operations, located in the Connector building, and unveiled SUNY’s updated COVID-19 Tracker, which will give provide additional trend and comparative data, with the same real-time results. The upgrades allow greater transparency on SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities, so campuses have the most information to isolate and respond to emerging cases on campuses.

“As North Country Community College and the last remaining campuses reopen, we are encouraged by low levels of the virus detected on our campuses going into the semester — particularly as positive cases have been higher across the nation,” Malatras said in a press release. “Weekly testing and our ability to monitor multiple levels of data will keep campus leadership informed to make swift decisions as cases happen, but our greatest weapon in fighting back this virus is everyone on campus doing what is necessary to stay safe — and with each visit to SUNY campuses I have the honor of meeting students who are ready for in-person classes, and for what they have to do to keep cases low within their community.”

Feb. 8 marked Malatras’ first visit to NCCC since his tenure began last fall. In addition to reviewing the college’s surveillance testing operation, he toured the campus and met with college leaders, including North Country’s student trustee, Jessica Kemp of Saranac Lake.

“From daily COVID-19 screenings to SUNY Upstate’s pooled surveillance testing methodology, we are able to offer our campus community an additional form of assurance that we are doing all we can to help our students, our employees, and the communities where we learn, work and live, stay healthy and safe,” college President Joe Keegan said in a press release.

The enhancements to SUNY’s COVID-19 Tracker dashboard announced by Malatras include:

¯ Testing data broken down by faculty/staff and students, including total tests, positives and positivity rates

¯ Quarantine-isolation space capacity calculator, systemwide and by campus

¯ State-region-county-campus positivity rate comparisons, mapped with filtering capabilities

¯ Monthly aggregate testing trends

¯ Historic trends, mapped system-wide and by campus.

More information about North Country’s spring semester plans and protocols is available online at www.nccc.edu/spring-2020.

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