Even when the coronavirus outbreak was just beginning, leaders in Alfred have been active in communication and planning. For Alfred’s two institutions of higher education, communications to students, faculty, and staff began in January with news of the medical threat. The Village, Volunteer Fire and EMS, Alfred University (AU), and Alfred State College (ASC) began meeting to coordinate information and strategies related to the coronavirus March 9.
During these stressful times, communication and transparency of information are critical. All four Alfred organizations are committed to working together and making relevant health information available to the public.
Leaders from all four groups are working in concert to continually interpret guidance from multiple and sometimes conflicting sources. These agencies including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the White House, governor’s office, New York State Department of Health (DOH), and both Allegany County and Steuben County DOH. By pooling our expertise, we believe we are better able to serve our community.
Village of Alfred Mayor Becky Prophet states, “Since March 9, the Village of Alfred has been working to coordinate information of the highest possible quality with and through A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder (AEC), Alfred University and Alfred State College. We have garnered information from one another, Allegany County Department of Health, and New York State Department of Health. On Saturday March 14, I declared a state of emergency, with the advice and in the presence of AEC Chief and Incident Commander, Paul Weaver and Village Trustee and Public Information Officer Caitlin Brown. The declaration of the State Emergency for the Village of Alfred asks all employees of both colleges, residents, and visitors to follow the protocols issued by the state of New York for slowing or preventing the spread of COVID-19. Since the moment of declaration, Prophet, Weaver, and Brown have been in regular contact through text and email to keep the public informed. Updates are posted daily at www.AlfredNY.org and some information is transmitted to residents who may not have access to digital resources. We are also working to keep up morale during the ‘stay home’ edicts. Join Alfred cacophony every night at 7:00 p.m. for two minutes of excited and thrilling noise making; and participate in the upcoming chalk drawings that will become Art Walk on April 16.”
Alfred’s Fire Chief Paul Weaver states, “The A.E. Crandall Hook & Ladder Company (AEC), which provides fire and EMS services to Alfred, began preparations in February, by placing orders for supplies and conducting training specific to infectious diseases; this training and preparation continues as new information and protocols are pushed out by Federal, State and Regional health agencies. AEC also coordinated with the County Office of Emergency Services and neighboring EMS agencies to ensure clear information flow and distribution of supplies.”
Alfred University President Mark Zupan states, “Alfred University, Alfred State College, and the Village of Alfred are, in many ways, a single community. As such, in a time of crisis like the one facing us now, we are made stronger by working together, sharing information and combining our resources. It is vitally important to the safety of all members of our shared community that we remain consistent in our communications and in the steps we take in our response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Alfred State College President Dr. Skip Sullivan states, “Before students left for spring break March 6, planning was well underway. In quick order, faculty and staff had to truly reinvent the college to continue learning exclusively now online. With every program at ASC including applied learning and hands-on experience, the conversion to online was not quick nor easy. My hats off to the ingenuity of faculty and staff for overcoming obstacles to make this happen. I’m also proud of all students and parents for adjusting to these changes during stressful and difficult times. We live in a time of uncertainty and fear. We counter it with our commitment to clear and frequent communication to help Pioneers stay strong and to strengthen the entire Alfred community by working together.”
To coordinate responses, the Incident Command System (ICS) is enacted for all four organizations. ICS is the emergency management structure developed by FEMA. All four organizations have staff members trained in the various roles for ICS. This structure allows quick response and the ability to organize many layers of support. Both Alfred State College and Alfred University determined the need for ICS to assist in emergency management at the end of February. Volunteer fire and EMS operates continuously within the ICS framework. All four organizations are continuing weekly or even daily meetings to supervise emergency management.
The Village of Alfred remains on alert and ready to help citizens. Currently, EMS have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). AU and ASC also maintain PPE supplies. Alfred State’s inventory is also made available for the statewide coordination of resources to be deployed by NYS where they are needed most.
The number of students within the village has been greatly reduced as they were sent home to continue studies online. Normally, the Village of Alfred would be home to more than 4,000 students. Alfred University announced on March 16 that all classes would go online at the end of spring break the following Monday. For Alfred State College, the conversion to online learning was announced March 11. AU’s campus currently has 62 students and ASC has 51 students who have financial or technology hardships forcing them to remain. The village estimates that there are an additional 100 students living in off-campus housing. This reduction of student population from 4,000 to 213 is approximately a 95 percent decrease. A reduction in population density helps to achieve the goals of social distancing.
Students and all village residents are advised to follow medical guidelines for limiting travel outside of home and avoiding close physical contact. Social distancing is a key defense for avoiding exposure to the virus. While students may feel a false sense of security because the most severe impact is on older adults and those with health complications, students are reminded that their actions have consequences for others. Anyone who becomes positive only helps to spread the coronavirus to others. Officers on patrol will counsel anyone seen not practicing social distancing outdoors.
This is the season for the 2020 US Census and to allow Allegany County to receive its fair share of federal funding in the future, it’s important for the usual student population to report Alfred, NY, as their residence. The census is supposed to count students at their “usual residence” and where they are supposed to be on April 1. Both colleges have sent communications to students encouraging them to report Alfred as their home for purposes of the census. This is following US Census guidelines and is important for future federal funding for school safety, mental health services, Pell grants, congressional representation, and other federal assistance to keep the Alfred community strong in the future.
The latest updates from each of the four Alfred organizations are available online: www.AlfredNY.org, my.Alfred.edu/special-announcement and AlfredState.edu/COVID-19. Each organization has pledged to remain open in sharing information including additional details such as AlfredState.edu/COVID-19/Cases to disclose information on testing and any quarantines. Another example is AU’s list of latest announcements at Alfred.edu/student-life/coronarvirus-update.cfm.