Paul Smith’s College reports zero COVID-19 cases at semester midpoint

Oct 16, 2020 | News

Hands-on instruction at the College of the Adirondacks has continued

Two months following a return to on-campus instruction, Paul Smith’s College continues to report zero COVID-19 cases. The college’s success in battling COVID-19 has resulted from a combination of strict health and safety protocols, rigorous testing, and a community-wide dedication to protecting one another’s health.

In an effort to reduce travel to and from campus, Paul Smith’s instituted a modified fall semester schedule, with classes beginning early on Aug. 18 and the cancellation of a traditional Fall travel break. In-person coursework is set to conclude prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Classes will wrap up with online exams and Capstone presentations in early December.

Additionally, all students, faculty and staff received COVID-19 tests early in the semester. Testing has continued, with random cohorts of 25 – 75 individuals tested weekly. Fewer than a dozen students who travelled to the college from high-concentration areas quarantined on campus; however by late September the number of those in isolation reached zero.

The college also instituted the Smitty Safety and Civility Pledge, which outlines specific health and safety measures along with new campus guidelines. Students, faculty, and staff have overwhelmingly agreed to uphold the standards of the pledge.

“With a thoughtful COVID-19 management plan, rigorously self-policed, we’ve been delivering face-to-face instruction since August without a single COVID case,” said Interim President Dr. Jon C. Strauss. “We’re comfortable that we’ll be able to maintain that record thanks to the resilience and commitment of all our Smitties.”

In a Sept. 25 special report by The New York Times, American colleges and universities have reported at least 130,000 cases of COVID-19, and SUNY institutions such as Oneonta (679), Oswego (191), Albany (107) and Buffalo (104) have all wrestled with double-digit positives. More recently, in St. Lawrence County and reported on by North Country Public Radio, Clarkson University quarantined 78 following three positives. “Unlike many other campuses around the country, the North Country’s universities have had very few COVID-19 cases,” David Sommerstein noted.

Nationally, more than 35 colleges have experienced recent case surges well into the thousands, while institutions in New York state primarily experienced surges in much earlier stages of the pandemic. Aside from a recent outbreak at a nursing facility in Elizabethtown, N.Y., over an hour from Paul Smith’s by car, much of the state’s northern region has fared relatively well.

While remaining free of COVID-19 is by no means an exact science, Paul Smith’s benefits from its geographical setting as well as a comprehensive management plan that includes mask policy when social distancing is not possible, prohibition of visitors, and daily health screenings via mobile or desktop application for all those physically on campus. In addition to COVID-19 measures, the college has also made flu shots available on campus for students and staff.

This ongoing success benefits Paul Smith’s, which leans on experiential education on a 14,000-acre campus that includes various labs, kitchens and recreational spaces. Remote learning remains an available option, with lectures broadcasted and recorded.

About Paul Smith’s College
At Paul Smith’s College, it’s about the experience. We are the only four-year institution of higher education in the Adirondacks. Our programs – in fields including hospitality, culinary arts, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship and the sciences – draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while preparing students for successful careers anywhere. For more information, visit



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Andy Johnstone
Communications & Media Manager
Phelps Smith Admin Building Room 207
(518) 327-6049