NYU reported 101 cases of COVID-19 at its main Washington Square campus within a two-week span on Wednesday, passing the state’s threshold of 100 cases in 14 days that was set by the state Department of Health for a higher education institution to transition to all-remote learning.
But NYU will stay open, officials said, citing the campus COVID testing positivity rate of 0.5 percent of the student, faculty, and staff population, across multiple campus locations in NYC
“Based on our overall conditions — primarily our low positivity rate, which is significantly lower than the area surrounding the school, and the robust program of testing — the State has advised that at this point we should continue to carry on as we have been, and do not at this point have to pivot to remote instruction,” said NYU spokesperson John Beckman in an email sent to the NYU community Tuesday. “Schools, units, and individual faculty members should not independently make changes in instruction or other operations.”
A request for information to the state departments of health and education was not answered Wednesday. According to latest city numbers, the citywide positive testing rate is 1.74% over a seven day rolling average.
Madison Hall, a first-year student at NYU who contributes to WNYC’s Radio Rookies project, said she has been advised by her sole in-person class to prepare for remote learning if necessary. The school officials “made it seem like NYU was in this bubble of not being affected by things as much, so I think they're trying to keep everybody from freaking out,” Hall said.
“If a transition to remote learning becomes necessary at some point, we want it to be smooth and orderly. So, while we continue to move forward as we have been, it is nonetheless prudent for schools and individual faculty to be thinking ahead about how they would respond to a transition to remote instruction,” Beckman’s email said.
In mid-September, NYU locked down freshman dorm Rubin Hall after reports of a cluster of four positive cases there.
COVID-19 rates are ticking upwards in Brooklyn and Queens, as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo begin targeted shutdowns of schools and non-essential businesses in some communities.
De Blasio said the city needed to work together to prevent another disaster.
“What we need now is voices of all communities to come together and say, ‘This is all of us, New York City fighting this fight together for the good of all. Let's support each other, let's work with each other,’” he said at his Wednesday press briefing. “The next few weeks are gonna be critical. We have the opportunity here to keep this outbreak small to address it, to stop it, to turn it around. It's up to all of us.”
NYU officials did not answer questions about whether the school’s exemption from the state policy on infection rates at universities sets a precedent for other institutions.