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Buffalo State dorm eyed as quarantine site: 'Planning is fluid'

ALBANY – SUNY Buffalo State officials have been told the campus might have to quarantine more than 100 foreign-study students who are being brought back to New York State under a new coronavirus order by the Cuomo administration.

Two state officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Buffalo News on Thursday that returning students would be under a lockdown situation during a two-week mandatory quarantine period.

A government source Thursday night, speaking on condition of anonymity, said SUNY is moving to relax its mandatory quarantine policy to also permit the returning students – like students from private colleges across the state and nation – to isolate themselves in their residences back home, and not just the dorms, for the two-week period.

Two other SUNY campuses are also being looked at to temporarily house the students, Stony Brook on Long Island and Brockport.

Laura Barnum, Buffalo State's vice president for finance and management, said administrators for the State University of New York system are looking at several locations, including Buffalo State, where there is open student housing. Buffalo State campus has 105 open dorm rooms in a vacant residential tower that is awaiting renovation.

"Coordination and planning is fluid," Barnum said. "SUNY system administration has not yet confirmed final locations."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday ordered the plan that will affect 260 SUNY students studying in Italy, South Korea and Japan. Speaking on Long Island Thursday afternoon, he said his administration is still working on where students will be housed in isolation for 14 days.

"Preferably they are going to be in SUNY dorms," Cuomo said. "We are working through the logistics now."

Officials at the State University of New York headquarters in Albany declined to comment.

(Erie County)

One of the two state officials speaking Thursday said Buffalo State could hold up to 105 of the returning students, Brockport would have a maximum of 95 and Stony Brook would house the rest.

The quarantine order is mandatory, SUNY officials said.

SUNY is telling students overseas that they will be offered transportation back to New York State on a state-supplied charter flight if they agree to enter the campus quarantine settings.

State officials could change their minds in a situation that has been evolving and changing in recent days. Cuomo officials said Wednesday that the quarantine sites would be somewhere in Western New York, the Utica and Rome area and on Long Island.

One of the state officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said college officials are asking questions about how they will guarantee that those arriving students, who have the potential to have been exposed to coronavirus, will not be able to interact with students, faculty and staff already on campus.

SUNY administrators are working on the details of the plan, which involve New York State chartering planes to pick up the students in the foreign countries. They could not say Thursday when the plan would be activated.

It is uncertain who will pay for the transportation, room and board and other costs, just as officials have not been able to say how the quarantine order will not affect students either academically or financially.

Some private schools that have brought back students from overseas programs have required those students to be quarantined – in their permanent residences or at some off-campus locations.

Cuomo said the number of novel coronavirus cases in New York State stood at 22 as of Thursday afternoon, up from 11 from Wednesday. Eight new cases were discovered in Westchester County, two in New York City and one on Long Island.

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