Overview of fall 2021 COVID-19 policies at SUNY New Paltz

UPDATE, Aug 6: In light of new CDC recommendations and the spread of the Delta variant, the College revised fall 2021 guidance to restore the on-campus, indoor mask requirement for everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated. This post has been updated to reflect that change. 

UPDATE, Aug 23: With the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, SUNY’s requirement that all students be vaccinated is now in effect. This post has been updated to reflect that change.


Following SUNY’s release of final COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 summer and fall semester, SUNY New Paltz’s COVID-19 Response Team, which includes representatives from academic affairs, health services, emergency management, information technology, human resources, student affairs and communication, developed this plan for implementing SUNY’s guidance at New Paltz this fall.

Our goal has been to enact policies that prioritize the safety of our entire campus population at a time when case numbers are again rising in parts of the country with lagging vaccination rates. We also recognize a need to remain consistent with the realities of daily life as our communities transition out of many pandemic restrictions.

“In adopting these policies for our campus, we recognize that there is no way for us to fully ‘go back’ to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said President Donald P. Christian. “As we transition yet again into a new daily reality, we look forward to experiencing a vibrant campus atmosphere once more, even as we recognize the strain that some students, faculty and staff may be feeling due to the persistent need to adapt to new routines. This campus community has proven its ability to rally together with a ‘We Not Me’ attitude in the face of new challenges, and I have full faith that we will continue to do so in the days to come.”

Below, we summarize key points of our planning for a safe, in-person fall 2021 semester. This guidance has been shared with our students, faculty, staff, local community and other stakeholders. We will continue to publish reminders about these policies in the form of FAQs, campus signage, our campus e-newsletter, social media, texts and other communication platforms.

These updated protocols are subject to change as COVID-19-related conditions evolve. SUNY New Paltz or SUNY may impose additional requirements if community transmission rates rise. The College will continue to work with our local department of health, the state health department and SUNY throughout the summer and fall semester to monitor the virus.


The student vaccination requirement went into effect on Aug. 23, 2021

Following the FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021, all SUNY students are now required to show proof of full vaccination.

Unvaccinated students have a 35-day grace period to get fully vaccinated; the deadline to do so is Sept. 27, 2021.

Those who do not comply will be withdrawn from in-person classes at SUNY New Paltz, per SUNY’s policy.

Any of the three vaccines currently available in the U.S. (Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna) will meet this requirement.

More information about SUNY’s student vaccine requirement, including guidance to help unvaccinated students comply, is available here.


SUNY New Paltz will require masks indoors for everyone, including the fully vaccinated, in light of latest CDC recommendations

On July 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance recommending indoor mask use in areas with “substantial” or “high” COVID-19 transmission rates, even for the fully vaccinated.

On Aug. 3, Ulster County’s transmission rate rose into the CDC’s “substantial” category, meaning the CDC’s indoor masking recommendation now applies in New Paltz.

Following the CDC guidance, SUNY New Paltz is exercising its discretion to restore the on-campus, indoor mask requirement for everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, effectively immediately and into the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. As conditions evolve, we may make further changes this fall.

On Sept. 3, 2021, the New York Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) issued updated guidance requiring universal masking in state offices and facilities.

Pursuant to this new state-wide guidance, instructors at New Paltz are not permitted to lower or remove their face coverings in classrooms while teaching or at any time when others are present.

Employees are free to remove their masks in private, closed offices and other similar spaces, as long as they maintain at least six feet of distance from others.

In shared indoor spaces – especially where employees are physically near each other or regularly interacting closely – face coverings must be used.

Students who live on campus do not need to wear masks in their rooms or suites, though they should wear masks in other shared areas of their residence halls.

The College is developing a new process for reporting non-compliance with this requirement. Student non-compliance will be handled through code-of-conduct policies outlined in the Student Handbook, and employee non-compliance through HRDI using counseling and disciplinary processes where non-compliance persists.


Other COVID-19 policies will be relaxed for fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff; Unvaccinated individuals will need to continue following these mandates

SUNY is following federal and state health guidelines and directing campuses to loosen COVID-19 policies for those who are fully vaccinated, and to keep them in place for those who are unvaccinated.

For purposes of these policies, students, faculty and staff will be classified as “fully vaccinated” if they meet both of the following criteria:

1) It has been at least two weeks since they received the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccination sequence, AND

2) They have uploaded their vaccination status to their COVID-19 profile at my.newpaltz.edu.

Social Distancing: Unvaccinated people must maintain, where practicable, six feet of social distance while indoors. Fully vaccinated people are not presently required to social distance while on campus but are encouraged to do so.

Daily COVID-19 Screening: Effective July 29, the Daily Screening at my.newpaltz.edu will be turned off only for fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff who have reported their vaccination status to the campus. Those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated will need to continue completing the screening every day they are on campus.

COVID-19 Testing: Unvaccinated individuals must continue to comply with SUNY’s weekly testing mandate every week they are on campus. This includes employees, per recently updated bargaining unit agreements with SUNY. UPDATE: Effective Sept. 7, fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff must test once every five weeks. This additional surveillance testing helps protect our community by allowing us to identify positive cases – including “breakthrough” cases in vaccinated people who may be less likely to experience symptoms – and implement the contact tracing and isolation protocols that are proven to reduce community spread of the virus.

Contact Tracing: Our team of campus Contact Tracers will continue their important work this fall. Following CDC and state guidance, thy will ask about vaccination status in their interviews with contacts. Close contacts who are unvaccinated will be directed into quarantine, while close contacts who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic will be advised to mask, practice social distancing, limit physical interaction with others, monitor any symptoms, and get a COVID-19 test three to five days after the known exposure. A more detailed explainer on campus Contact Tracing is available at this link.


Students must be fully vaccinated in order to live on campus

As previously announced, all SUNY New Paltz students who intend to live in on-campus housing during the fall 2021 semester MUST show proof of vaccination before moving in, with limited medical and religious exemptions.

This policy is not contingent on full FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine. SUNY permits individual campuses to enact housing regulations and policies based on vaccination status, as long as they comply with New York’s exemption requirements.

More information about medical and religious exemptions, including the necessary forms, are available at the Student Health Service website.


Awosting Hall will remain available for use as an on-campus quarantine/isolation space

The College will continue to hold Awosting Hall unoccupied and available for students who live on campus and must be quarantined or isolated.

Any student who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate for 10 days. This includes both unvaccinated and vaccinated students.

Per Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidance, fully vaccinated individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 do not need to quarantine unless they are symptomatic. Fully vaccinated students who do not display symptoms will not be asked to quarantine following an exposure.

Unvaccinated students will need to quarantine if they are in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual for longer than 10 minutes. They will also be required to follow CDC recommendations for travel quarantine and any other quarantine guidelines issued by the state or county health departments.

While quarantining or isolating on campus, students will be provided with a refrigerator/microwave, food, support, wellness checks, and laundry and trash services. Once students move out of quarantine, the space they occupied will be thoroughly cleaned.


On-campus COVID-19 testing will continue at a reduced volume this fall

The College will continue to provide COVID-19 testing at Awosting Hall to accommodate members of our community.

As outlined above, any unvaccinated student, faculty or staff member must be tested at least once a week, every week that they are on campus. Effective Sept. 7, vaccinated students, faculty and staff must be tested at least once every five weeks.

They can choose to be tested on or off campus; those who are tested off campus must submit results via their COVID-19 profile at my.newpaltz.edu.

Diagnostic (PCR) testing will continue to be recommended for anyone who displays COVID-19 symptoms, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Students experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms should contact the Student Health Service or their physician immediately to arrange a diagnostic test. Employees experiencing symptoms should contact their physician.

The COVID-19 testing schedule for the rest of summer can be found here; the full fall schedule will be shared soon.


Major in-person events will resume this fall

SUNY and the State of New York have lifted restrictions for all but the largest (5,000+ people) indoor events. Accordingly, in-person events at SUNY New Paltz (including public lectures, student events, Commencement, Convocation, etc.) will resume as normal this academic year.

All health and safety policies for unvaccinated people, including visitors, (masking, distancing, regular surveillance testing) will be in effect for these events, as for all other campus activities this fall.

Consistent with industry standards for arts events and museum attendance, the School of Fine & Performing Arts has published additional requirements for participation in in-person events. View that guidance here.

Please note that the College has upgraded air filtration systems and modified HVAC policies to support a return to regular indoor capacity this fall. Use this link to read more about those upgrades.


Vaccination status disclosure policies

Student vaccination information disclosed to the College may be shared with campus faculty and staff on a need-to-know basis as a necessary element of our campus COVID-19 management and within what is allowed by federal and state law (FERPA).

This may include employees who are involved in campus contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, and general health and safety personnel, among others.

Vaccination figures for our community will also be reported to SUNY and New York State and will be used to help inform planning for on-campus programs and activities.


A limited number of courses will require vaccination due to the nature of instruction

The College has identified a small number of courses (primarily music performance sections) where instruction cannot be provided remotely or with use of masks.

For these courses it is medically necessary to require vaccination, and the College is authorized to do so prior to full FDA approval of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Students enrolled in these courses have been notified of this course-specific requirement and provided with guidance on getting vaccinated or adjusting their course schedule.

Students who have approved medical or religious exemptions will be provided an alternative course or experience. Please work with your academic department on a case-by-case basis.


Policies for visitors will be consistent with policies for students, faculty and staff

The College will resume allowing visitors in indoor spaces and at campus events this fall, and COVID-19-related policies for visitors will largely follow those for campus community members. All campus visitors must wear masks in indoor spaces while on campus.