Officials at Syracuse University are asking students who attended an off-campus party last week to shelter in place as they attempt to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

J. Michael Haynie, the university's Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, released a statement on Tuesday, writing that SU's public health surveillance team had observed a recent cluster of positive COVID-19 cases among students. Originally, 13 of those cases could be traced back, directly or indirectly, to a party at an apartment complex on Walnut Avenue last week. But according to a second statement Tuesday night, as many as 45 positive cases were part of the growing cluster.

"The overwhelmingly positive and selfless behavior, exhibited by the vast majority of our students to this point in the semester, makes our current situation all the more disappointing," Haynie wrote in the statement. "It will take quick and coordinated cooperation of the entire campus community to prevent this situation from expanding beyond our ability to control."

The university is asking any students who attended the party on Walnut Avenue last week to report to the COVID testing center at the stadium beginning Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.

After the cluster of positive cases grew to 45 Tuesday night, Haynie said the university has taken "aggressive action to organize immediate testing and quarantine of close contacts." The university has also implemented a number of immediate actions to contain the spread of COVID on campus and allow time for the university's contact tracing team to identify potential exposures within the community.

In-person activities, aside from classes, associated classwork and intercollegiate athletics, have been paused until further notice, and the university's Stay Safe Pledge that allows for on and off-campus social gatherings of up to 25 people has been amended to limit all gatherings to five individuals who do not live together. SU officials are also asking Greek houses to adopt a no-visitor policy and reminded all students to remain vigilant in keeping with current best health practices.

According to Haynie, Syracuse University's initial investigation suggests that the emerging cluster was originally caused by one or more students who had recently returned to campus from a trip to another college outside of Central New York. The university also expects that there will be additional positive cases beyond the current 13 as a result of the party, so they are trying to prevent any further spread.

If nothing else, what happened at the beginning of SUNY Oneonta's fall 2020 semester serves as a reminder of how quickly an outbreak can emerge.

At the beginning of September and just over a week into the fall semester, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced that SUNY Oneonta would implement a plan to send on-campus students home and cancel all in-person classes and activities for the rest of the semester. This came after nearly 400 cases of COVID-19 rocked the campus community in that first week.

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