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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Health Alerts

Back to New Normal



As an integral part of the return to normal operations at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, the Back to the New Normal workgroup (BTNN) will conduct an anonymous survey to understand concerns about plans to bring the campus back to a new hybrid form of operation and to assess the understanding of those plans.


On behalf of President Riley, the BTNN Workgroup is developing plans to return in a way that maximizes safety while conforming to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State, and SUNY guidelines.  These guidelines include screening, use of face coverings, cleaning protocols, and social distancing.


While Hospital operations have continued throughout the COVID pandemic, the rest of the Downstate campus has largely been working remotely.  As different units begin to come back to hybrid or fully online operations, it is critical that we share plans for a safe return. 


With direct input from operational and business units, we plan to phase in the return to campus in a carefully planned manner, notifying groups through their supervisors and schools about when and how they will return.


    • Medical students doing clinical rotations are among some groups that have begun the return to campus during Phase II of the State’s re-opening process.  Other groups will begin to return during Phase III.


    • Each operating unit and/or cohort of students will be notified when they are expected to return to campus and under what circumstances. If you are an employee or if you are a student, and have been working remotely, you should continue to do so until notified of any change by your supervisor.


Please complete the attached survey and return no later than July 10, 2020. All responses will be kept confidential. Your feedback will assist in adapting our plans and communications to address your concerns.


We look forward to your participation so that we can include your concerns in our planning. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey which you can access at this link:



The Back to the New Normal Workgroup, as part of the Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force appointed by president Riley, has been working collaboratively and diligently for more the last few weeks to:

  • Understand the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, SUNY System, and local authorities for a phased return to work for non-essential workers
  • Assess needs of operating units throughout Downstate for returning to campus and/or continuing to work remotely—in whole or in part—while ensuring the normal resumption of campus activities and business operations
  • Identify critical needs for supplies, support, education and signage, physical changes, and new policies and protocols that will ensure safety and do our jobs
  • Develop a clear and comprehensive plan to meet the critical needs that are identified
  • Create and communicate a thoughtful plan aimed at a phased return to campus for all Downstate, Research Foundation, UPB, and affiliated staff at all locations onsite and offsite

Chaired by Heidi Aronin, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, the Workgroup comprises more than 30 members from across SUNY Downstate, with representatives from every college/school of Downstate Health Sciences University, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and from administrative and shared services.

The Workgroup has been examining and planning for issues that include disease trajectory, an operational survey of working units to determine needs; adaptations to physical locations; conducting surveys and outreach to identify community concerns; clinical ramp-up; return of educational programming; resumption of research activities; support and administrative services required to return to work; communications and education to ensure that members of the campus community are informed of plans and progress.

Downstate is committed to minimizing risks and protecting the health and safety of our patients, students, staff, faculty, vendors, and visitors. In the coming weeks, the Back to the New Normal Workgroup will issue campus-wide communications to keep the community apprised of plans going forward.

In the interim, individuals working remotely should continue doing so until otherwise notified. We are taking an approach like the State in terms of our reopening. Therefore, restarting operations will be determined on a department-by-department basis.

Masks: Airflow Visualization


The Development of the “Back To Work” Workgroup to Assess Downstate’s Return to Business Operations 

Since this crisis began, we have been following guidance from the New York State Department of Health and the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The Governor’s most recent communication extends ‘NYS on PAUSE’ through June 13, 2020. All non-essential employees must continue to work remotely, where feasible. Essential employees must continue to report to work onsite or as assigned by your supervisor.

We continue to fight against an elusive enemy. Courses are being delivered for students via online and in other socially-distanced formats, and non-essential workers are working remotely. We adjusted business operations and physical environments to employ social distancing practices with the ultimate goal of slowing the coronavirus spread and flattening the curve.

As we approached the anticipated peak of the outbreak in April, we were cautiously optimistic that the curve was flattening. With the number of hospitalizations and deaths decreasing—albeit with a recent delay for some areas of the State—Governor Cuomo has determined that New York On-Pause Program can slowly begin a phased-in process to return the State to normal operations.

Each region must meet seven specific metrics to enter this phase. New York City does not yet meet the required number of metrics to begin the reopening process. However, as of today, some upstate regions will begin the Phase I reopening process for construction, manufacturing, and select retail businesses. How quickly a region advances depends on a decreasing number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

In anticipation of New York City’s Phase I reopening, we have begun planning for a return to regular business operations. While the Governor’s extension of non-essential workers remotely working expires on June 13, the downstate New York region has not yet met the criteria required for reopening. Therefore, under the umbrella of the Coronavirus Preparedness Task Force, I established a special workgroup to make recommendations for SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and University Hospital of Brooklyn to safely reopen our academic and clinical operations.

The Back to Work workgroup, chaired by Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Heidi Aronin, is charged with exploring and making recommendations to me the factors necessary to safely ease our workforce and student population back to business and academic operations. It is tasked with recommending policies and communications that will be implemented along the way for a safe and comfortable return. Members of the Workgroup include representatives from Downstate’s research, clinical, academic, and operational enterprises.

In the next week or so, you will receive a link to a survey that will assess essential elements for a safe return. Your responses will help determine various aspects requiring attention and the necessary parameters for implementation.

Your input is vital for this very crucial fact-finding step—your participation by completing the survey when received is strongly encouraged. All survey responses will be kept confidential.

Like you, I look forward to a sense of normalcy that includes your safe return to Downstate’s campus. In the meantime, please continue to stay safe and be well.