University Task Force Considers Possibility of Gate 4

Just as New York State remains in the fourth and final stage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reopening Plan, Colgate will also attempt to move into its loosest phase of reopening, Gate 4, which is still being developed. 

The University could enter Gate 4 as early as Tuesday, Oct. 27, two weeks after its transition into Gate 3. The new phase would allow students to gather in groups of 50 or fewer outdoors if they continue to wear face coverings and stand six feet apart.

“Gate 4 may be implemented if nearly all of the health metrics remain at low level or new normal level during Gate Level 3 for a minimum of 14 days,” the University’s website states. 

Conversation among the Task Force on Reopening began two weeks ago after considering the state-approved level of social gatherings. To date, New York State’s last phase permits groups of up to 50 people outdoors, with stricter limits placed on indoor activities. All reopening stages still require individuals to adhere to social distancing guidelines, including wearing facial coverings at all times. 

According to Health Analytics Team Manager Severin Flanigen, his team did not feel comfortable shifting from the permitted group size of 10 in Gate 2 to the state-wide approved group size of 50 in Gate 3. After sharing the team’s concern with the Task Force, it was decided that Gate 3 would be modified while developing Gate 4 to adhere to Governor Cuomo’s reopening plan. 

“After modifying Gate 2 to keep the gathering limit to 10, moving all of the way up to 50 sounded too large of a transition without being more progressive, and that was based on the health analytics that we saw. So that’s why we made modifications to Gate 3 and began plans for adding a Gate 4,” Associate Vice President for Campus Safety, Emergency Management and Environmental Health and Safety Dan Gough said.

Although the Task Force met for two hours about the possible new phase, Gate 4 remains mainly in the planning stage. According to Associate Professor of Biology and co-Chair of the Task Force on Reopening Geoff Holm, Gate 4 only recently came into being. Outside of details on the University’s website, Gate 4 remains under development by the Task Force as the situation continues to change.

“I think that we are currently in a good place at Colgate, with the caveat that it doesn’t take much to quickly get out of hand, so the Health Analytics Team and Task Force on Reopening are constantly vigilant to all of the metrics on the dashboard,” Holm said. “We are certainly concerned by the rising case numbers in the region. It is certainly possible that we can do everything right at Colgate and still need to return to remote operations based on the regional conditions.”

Governor Cuomo recently announced New York State’s new cluster action initiative to combat COVID-19 hot spots, implementing new rules and restrictions in areas with rising numbers of cases. Among identified “clusters” is Binghamton in Broome County, just 50 minutes from the University’s campus.

“If analytics and data tell us that it’s not safe to move to [Gate 4], then we wouldn’t do it. That being said, our community is doing a great job of controlling the infection. The data shows that, and our hope is that we can get there,” Gough said.

Despite some concern, Flanigen affirmed that metrics remain at low alert levels across the board, with fewer reports of student Commitment to Community Health violations. The Health Analytics Team continues to monitor surrounding counties’ infection rates, as many faculty and staff commute from these locations. Modifications may occur depending on the state’s infection control measures and localized outbreaks. 

“At this point, I don’t really see [looser gates] happening, based on the restrictions placed on group gatherings by the state. Given the rising case numbers state-wide, those restrictions are likely only to get tighter, not looser,” Holm said.