COVID-19 Public Health Update: Effective Tuesday, April 19, Masking at Level Blue

Campus & Community

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families:

With less than four weeks to go in the spring semester, our campus is beginning to experience an uptick in COVID cases, a trend that is consistent with what is occurring across the country and here in Onondaga County. As we approach the end of year activities, including final projects and exams, and Commencement exercises, it is important that we take reasonable action to minimize the impact of COVID infections on academic outcomes and experiences. That’s why, effective Tuesday, April 19, our campus will transition to COVID level “Blue.”

What does this action mean for you?

Masking level Blue indicates an elevated level of transmission risk on campus and stipulates the following guidelines on campus:

  • For all students, faculty and staff who are vaccinated and boosted:
    • Masks Required at all times:
      • During academic instruction (inclusive of classrooms, laboratories, libraries and lecture venues); and
      • During non-academic events and in certain facilities, as determined by a public health risk assessment. These exceptions will be communicated directly as appropriate, to include the installation of signage as required.
    • Masks Strongly Recommended:
      • When indoors on campus, and outdoors in the presence of others.
    • For vaccine-exempt individuals (approved religious or medical exemption), or if you have not yet received a booster dose of the COVID vaccine:
      • Masks are required at all times and in all facilities while on campus, and while outdoors when in the presence of others.

Why was this decision made?

Late last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its recommendation for indoor masking from Onondaga and Oswego counties, to include an additional eight counties across Central New York. This elevated masking recommendation stems from an increasing number of new COVID cases across the region, likely resulting from subvariants of the omicron strain of the COVID virus. These subvariants were first identified in Onondaga County several weeks ago. There is no current evidence that these subvariants cause heightened levels of illness among vaccinated individuals. However, these subvariants do appear to be more contagious. This is likely why we have experienced an increase in new cases and test positivity on campus over the past 10 days. Given the high vaccination rate among our campus community, the most recent uptick of new cases on campus has not resulted in heightened levels of symptomatic illness among students, staff and faculty. That said, given that New York State public health law mandates a five-day isolation period for those who test positive, the surge in new cases and associated class absences has increasingly disrupted the academic experience.

Public Health Reminders

The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to continue following good public health practices, including:

  • Get tested! Free, on-demand testing continues to be available to all asymptomatic students, faculty, staff and families at Kimmel Dining Hall. To review hours of operation, please visit the Stay Safe testing webpage.
  • Monitor for symptoms: If you are experiencing any COVID-like symptoms, stay home. Do not report to work or attend class. For students feeling ill, call (do not physically visit) Barnes Center Health Care at 315.443.8000. Please do not visit the Barnes Center until you’ve spoken with a team member there by phone. Faculty and staff experiencing COVID-like symptoms should stay home and contact their primary care physician.
  • Know what to do if you test positive: If you are uncertain about what steps you should take if you come down with COVID, please visit the Stay Safe website to review our step-by-step response checklists.

As we have said from the beginning, navigating COVID health and policy concerns—on behalf of all members of our community—requires patience and flexibility of everyone in our community. We will continue to monitor current conditions and refine our guidelines based on the most up-to-date data, science and public health guidance. We appreciate your continued cooperation and ongoing commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy campus community.


J. Michael Haynie
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation