Red, Orange and Yellow Zones: New York’s Cluster Action Initiative, and how it may affect SUNY New Paltz

An example of Cluster Action Initiative map of Red and Yellow Zones in Orange County, New York, as of Oct. 21, 2020. Click to expand.

Governor Cuomo’s newly announced Cluster Action Initiative gives the state an additional tool for addressing COVID-19 hot spots.

It also establishes new scenarios under which SUNY New Paltz may be required to pivot to fully remote learning.

With this initiative, Governor Cuomo has directed the Department of Health to identify areas in New York that require enhanced public health restrictions based upon cluster-based cases of COVID-19.

Cluster areas will be designated with color-coded zones – Yellow for precautionary zones, Orange for warning zones and Red for the cluster itself – that each carry special restrictions on certain activities including in-person gatherings.

How does this affect SUNY New Paltz?

Per the Cluster Action Initiative, any school in an area the Department of Health has designated as a Red Zone or an Orange Zone will be required to go remote only.

The policy applies to college and universities, meaning that SUNY New Paltz may be required to go fully remote if New Paltz or the surrounding area sees a cluster of COVID-19 cases and is designated an Orange or Red Zone by the Department of Health.

If our region is designated a Yellow Zone, we will not be required to go fully remote but may need to increase mandatory testing of our on-campus student, faculty and staff population.

This policy augments the guidelines announced early in the fall semester, that the College would be required to go fully remote if our on-campus population records 100 positive COVID-19 tests over a 14-day period.

If the College is within an area that is designated an Orange or Red Zone, we may be required to go fully remote even if the local cluster is not impacting our campus community, and we remain below the 100-cases-over-two-weeks threshold.

More detailed guidance on the Cluster Action Initiative can be accessed online.