25 Active COVID-19 Cases in SJU Community

University must close for two weeks if 100 active cases in a two week period is reached


New state guidelines from Governor Cuomo say that universities must close for two weeks if their numbers exceed 100 cases in a two week period. TORCH PHOTO/BRENDEN WILLSCH

St. John’s has reported 25 active cases of COVID-19 within the University community as of Sept. 8, bringing the total a quarter of the way toward a potential temporary shutdown under state guidelines. At the time of publish on Sept. 9 this number remains the same. 

Of these individuals, 13 reported positive results over the Labor Day holiday weekend, between Sept. 5 and Sept. 7. Three more cases were reported on the evening of Sept. 8. 

Five individuals are isolating on campus, while the other 20 are isolating off campus, according to the Reported Cases tab on the St. John’s Reopens website.

Due to “Privacy laws that protect student identity and personal health information,” the University declined to answer questions regarding if, and how many, people are isolating in St. Vincent Hall – however, this is the only building on campus to serve as an isolation residence for resident students who contract COVID-19. 

On Aug. 27, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that colleges in New York State that reach 100 active cases or equal to 5% of total school population – whichever is less – must close for two weeks to reevaluate. 

“St. John’s University will adhere to the directives issued by New York State that now instruct campuses to go completely remote for two-weeks if they report 100 cases or more during a 14-day count,” University spokesperson Brian Browne said. 

In the Aug. 27 press briefing, Cuomo named seven schools in the state that have seen an increase in positive cases, including Hofstra University in Hempstead along with SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Oswego, SUNY Fredonia, Cornell University, University at Buffalo and Colgate.

Hofstra University, only 20 miles away in Hempstead, has seen 34 cases since the beginning of their semester according to university officials. 

The 14-day mark for the current count of active cases is Sept. 11. If the University were to close for two weeks, classes would revert completely to online learning, but residence halls would remain open during this time. 

“This is not a quarantine of students,” Browne said. Students would be able to leave their dorm rooms but would take all classes remotely. 

This past week, SUNY Oneonta cancelled all in-person classes and is sending all students home after a week and a half of classes and a subsequent 389 positive COVID-19 cases. This number exceeded 5% of their population, but rather than close campus operations for two weeks, they’ve given students less than a week to move out and have shut their campus down. They are giving room and board refunds to those who must evacuate. 

Browne did not dismiss the possibility that the University may have to close down permanently for the semester should the number of positive cases at St. John’s exceed 100 within a 14-day period. 

“The University is in daily consultation with a team of internal and external public health experts that guide our decision-making and evaluate all COVID-19 circumstances as they arise,” Browne said “St. John’s University will adhere to the guidelines issued by New York State and will adjust our campus operations accordingly.”

“The University has demonstrated our ability — whatever the circumstances — to transition to provide academic instruction,” Browne said. “If necessary, the University will transition to 100 percent remote instruction” 

The first reported case of COVID-19 at St. John’s was reported on the University website on Aug. 24. (The three students who tested positive when they arrived on campus for quarantine in early August, and any others who tested positive prior to arriving on campus or while quarantined are not counted in this data count).

On Aug. 31, the University reported that there were a total of six reported COVID-19 cases in the community. Three days later, on Sept. 3, the University reported a total of 11. This number has now risen to 25 as of 6 p.m. on Sept. 8. The University says they are in the process of collecting contact tracing information from the three most recent cases. Contact tracing has been conducted for all other reported cases on the website, according to Browne.