What Students Should Know: COVID-19 and Returning to Campus

As we return to campus in Spring 2021, SUNY Downstate’s first priority is the health and safety of our campus community, including its students, faculty, and staff. The best way to maintain the safest environment possible throughout 2021 and beyond is for each of us to take steps to minimize the risks, not only for ourselves, but for all members of the SUNY community. This includes:

  • wearing appropriate personal protective equipment
  • hand washing
  • social distancing
  • participating in testing and tracing
  • completing daily screenings
  • being mindful of our surroundings and the impact we have

Any of us alone can spread this disease and cause harm to others. But all of us together can build a community that is safe and healthy, where educational success is possible.

Here’s what you need to know and do as SUNY and Downstate welcome students back to campus in 2021:

Routine information regarding COVID-19 on Downstate’s campus can be found on our COVID-19 Response Page (linked here: The campus will use your email to communicate any significant changes to the information provided here or need for a campus pivot. The campus website will be routinely updated.


As we have previously indicated, we continue to strongly recommend that students not travel during this time. Students who travel outside of New York State and the five contiguous states (New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont), including internationally, for more than 24 hours must comply with the following requirements (which are stricter than the New York State requirements, so please read these carefully):

  1. You must complete a COVID-19 test within 3 days prior to returning to New York.
  2. You must complete a seven-day total quarantine, the last three of which must be in New York State. (You can include days spent quarantining prior to returning to New York State if you remained quarantined at that location.)
  3. You must complete the New York State Travel Form. Be sure to take a screenshot of the confirmation you have completed the form as proof. (See
  4. After the completion of the seven-day quarantine, on the eighth day (at least the fourth day in New York State) you must complete a coronavirus test. (This test can be taken at Student Health, but not through the pooled saliva testing program described below. If you do not plan to take the test at Student Health, you should contact Student Health for an alternative means of testing before taking the test as we may not accept all tests.)
  5. In order to be cleared by Student Health you must present evidence of both the initial and final test and completion of the New York State Travel Form.
  6. You are not cleared to return to in-person learning until you are cleared by Student Health. Only Student Health can clear you

We should note that because we continue to recommend that you not travel outside of New York or the contiguous states during this period if you can avoid doing so as you must quarantine upon returning to New York. Also, if you are required to quarantine, Downstate may not be able to provide you with an alternative remote mode of instruction for the material you would miss.

In addition, we remind you that COVID-19 infection rates in the State of New York and the contiguous states also continue to rise, so please exercise as much caution as you can and avoid any unnecessarily travel, even within the region.

Questions about complying with the travel requirements can be addressed to Student Health at

Required Quarantine

Under State University of New York rules, prior to returning to in-person learning, students must quarantine for a minimum of 7 days. In addition, SUNY Downstate requires you to take three total COVID-19 tests (which will be described below under “Required Testing”).

In order to return, your quarantine must begin no later than seven days prior. This means you must be back in your domicile that you will be using for the semester by no later than one week prior to beginning in-person learning. During this period, you should not be interacting with anyone not in that domicile (including your family whom you do not live with). Prior to your return, you will be asked to fill out an attestation that you have completed this requirement.

Required Testing

You must complete a total of three required COVID-19 tests and receive a negative result from each based on the following schedule.

First Test: You must complete a COVID Test either through the on-campus Pool Testing program or complete a PCR test (nasal or saliva) between 4 and 7 days prior to the first day of in-person classes. If you take a PCR test, it should be sent to Be sure the results include your name, the type of test, and the date you took the test. 

Second Test: Your second test should be completed through the campus pool testing program within the first three days you are on campus.

Third Test: Your third test should be completed eight to twelve days following the first day you attended classes in person.

The results of all three of these tests must be negative.

Students will not be able to attend any in-person classes, programming or certain facilities before submitting a negative test result from a test taken within the stated time frame.

Everyone coming to campus, including students, must complete a daily health screening through Wellscreen when arriving on campus.

All students who participate in any on-campus or in-person learning or clinical activities must participate in the on-campus testing program or be tested from one of our clinical partners.

SUNY maintains a comprehensive dashboard of COVID-19 testing and infection rate status across the system and at each campus. COVID-19 Tracker.

Each of us can take small steps to protect ourselves and the campus community. Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, these simple measures apply both on and off-campus:

  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (including masks) at all times on campus, including in classrooms, conference rooms and other public spaces, even when you are able to maintain six feet of social distancing, except when eating at approved locations on campus. This includes while participating in studying activities on-campus, whether participating in group study or individual study because the spaces you are in are both public and shared.

In addition, face shields over face masks are required whenever close contact of less than six feet for longer than ten minutes is required. This includes clinical activities and simulated clinical activities such as those that take place in the Simulation Center.  For additional information, please consult the latest version of the PPE Chart

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer where soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home when you are sick or have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Practice social distancing at all times to reduce transmission.

Students who test positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, or are informed by a state or local health department, or medical or campus official that they are “at risk” for having COVID-19 may be required to quarantine or isolate. This may include taking classes remotely, and not participating in on-campus materials or campus facilities.

If you have a prolonged and close contact (as defined below) with a positive or suspected positive case, please contact Student & Employee Health immediately by e-mail for instructions ( You may be required to begin a 7-day quarantine or isolation period before resuming in-person classes or activities. You should not return to in-person activities until authorized to do so by Student Health or the SUNY Downstate Contact Tracing Corps.

“Close contact” is defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) as coming within six (6) feet of an individual for at least fifteen (15) minutes (prolonged exposure) starting from two (2) days before symptom onset (or for asymptomatic clients, two (2) days before positive specimen collection) until the time the individual is isolated. In healthcare settings, prolonged exposure to patients with COVID-19 is considered as a higher risk if the healthcare worker’s eyes, nose, or mouth are not covered, or if the patient is actively having specific symptoms such as cough during the clinical encounter. Any duration of exposure during the performance of an aerosol-generating procedure is considered prolonged.

Please note that only Student & Employee Health Services or the SUNY Downstate Contact Tracing Corps, not your program faculty or administration, can clear you to return to coursework. Just receiving a negative test or recommendation from another health care provider is not sufficient.

When the campus learns of a violation of the rules associated with COVID-19 safety, students may lose access to campus facilities and/or campus housing. Other disciplinary actions may be taken by Student Affairs and/or Human Resources Offices. Student conduct is governed by the campus Code of Conduct, located in the annual Student Handbook (located on-line at Student Policies) Minimum sanctions for COVID-19 violations are outlined in the Uniform Sanctioning in Response to COVID-19 Student Violations. Consequences can include: Suspension from attending in person classes (allowing remote learning only), Suspension from Downstate for up to a year, or Expulsion/Dismissal from Downstate. Consistent with SUNY policy, students who are partially or completely removed from the institution due to a violation are not eligible for refunds.

We understand that this is an exceptionally challenging time. SUNY has resources to help you get the support you need.

SUNY Downstate will continue to offer a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online courses in the Spring 2021 semester, which is similar to what was offered in Fall 2020. The mix of in-person, hybrid, and online courses is dependent on the academic program you are enrolled in. Overall, the mix of courses at SUNY Downstate is 17% fully on-line, 13% hybrid, and 70% are in-person courses (including all clinical experiences).

Students who need assistance with instructional technology should contact Academic Computing & Technology:

Students who wish to disclose covered disabilities and receive reasonable accommodations for their disabilities should contact the Disability Services Coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs. (Email to obtain a copy of the disability accommodations form.)

Similar to the fall semester, on-campus residence halls will continue to be open in the spring with reduced density.

Should it become necessary, SUNY Downstate is prepared to ramp down, shut down, or shift modalities of academic activities on campus-based on the type of instruction the course was in at the time, should change become necessary. Our primary goal is, of course, the safety of all our constituents.

Beyond courses, students who live on-campus will continue to be accommodated and students should not leave campus unless authorized to do so by public health authorities. Should the campus pivot to all on-line learning for a long period of time, students living on-campus will be offered the opportunity to move off-campus consistent with public health guidelines. Students who follow the guidelines will be offered a refund consistent with SUNY Downstate policy.

The following rules about academic courses would apply regardless if Downstate entered a two-week pause or had to enter a pause for a longer period of time.

Clinical Courses (Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions)

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University offers multiple programs in the College of Medicine, College of Nursing, and School of Health Professions where students participate in clinical activities.

When a recommendation is issued by our program-based accreditors or it becomes necessary that students should be removed from clinical environments, we will do so immediately. Should a suspension of clinical activities become necessary, programs will make the following adjustments, following the strict guidance provided by our program based accrediting bodies and licensing boards:

  • Some training may be conducted virtually (using virtual simulation activities). Depending on the academic program and their accreditation and licensure rules, this option may be limited.
  • Since many clinical courses include both didactic learning and practical learning, students may continue with the didactic portions of their courses. Shortened didactic components of courses may be offered to students with simulation, with required clinical activities to be completed when courses resume.

Laboratory/Simulations/Skills/Lab-based Education Courses (Medicine, Nursing, Health Professions, Graduate Studies)

For skills-based education and simulation, hybrid delivery of courses will be in place as much as possible during the Spring 2021 semester that incorporates distance learning with in-person direct skills instruction combined with simulation, as it was in Fall 2020. Should it become necessary to suspend in-person, direct skills instruction, some activities may be able to be replaced by virtual simulation training under the guidelines of our accreditors/licensing bodies.

Laboratory courses will also continue to be virtual where possible; however, some skills require in-person training. If it becomes necessary, all portions of these courses that are possible will be completed virtually, with in-person activities to resume again when it is safe to do so.

Dissertation Proposals, Pre-Defenses, and Defenses (School of Graduate Studies)

Should it become necessary to do so, thesis meetings for proposals, pre-defenses, and final defenses will be rescheduled to later dates. In cases where the timing of thesis defense meetings impact students’ progress, (e.g. M.D./Ph.D. students, proposals, pre-defenses, and final defenses) these meetings can be done remotely whereas the School of Graduate Studies will accept videoconference and teleconference attendance—comments from those in attendance can be made via web-conferencing and/or teleconferencing.

Seminar Courses (School of Graduate Studies)

The School of Graduate Studies will hold virtual seminars in the Spring 2021 semester when possible. Should it become necessary, program directors will shift all seminars to webcast presentations.

Didactic Courses (All Schools)

All fully didactic content for all degree programs will be delivered via distance education through the Spring 2021 semester.

Research (All Schools)

School of Health Professions: In the School of Health Professions, research and scholarship activities will use a combination of virtual and limited in-person interactions given most research is applied/health services in nature using descriptive, correlational, and quasi-experimental designs. Should it become necessary, these activities will move to virtual platforms or will be suspended.

College of Nursing: In the College of Nursing, all faculty and student research activities will continue to be conducted via distance education. Research in the College of Nursing does not require laboratory space.

School of Graduate Studies: For Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. students in any of their year of study in the School of Graduate Studies where training involves research, students and faculty continue to be permitted in labs within the existing campus guidelines during the pandemic, as most research being conducted is health-care related. Students and faculty in individual labs have been managing their own schedules for work on- or off-site and will continue to do so. Should a suspension of on-site research activities be required, faculty will coordinate with students.

College of Medicine: In the College of Medicine, students can participate in research experiences at multiple points during their academic career. Research and scholarship activities will use a combination of virtual and limited in-person interactions. These activities will be continued, for the most part, without in-person interactions, should it be necessary.

Changes and Updates

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creates a fluid situation that may require unexpected changes in our response. Updates to scientific knowledge, public health guidance, or laws and regulations may mean SUNY and Downstate have to make changes to our standards and rules, including those indicated above. SUNY and Downstate will try to minimize these changes and their impact. We will keep you informed of new developments.

Thank you in advance for everything you are doing and will do to make 2021 safe for you, your fellow students, and the campus community and beyond.