Amanda Muro, a SUNY Oneonta freshman from Centerport, spoke about having contracted the coronavirus and how it has impacted her college experience. Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner

A SUNY Oneonta freshman from Centerport who tested positive for COVID-19 said school officials should share more of the blame for a student outbreak than her peers who partied.

Amanda Muro, 18, is living in an isolation dorm with mild symptoms. Muro’s sister, Kaitlyn, a senior, is in quarantine for 14 days after her off-campus roommate tested positive. And Muro’s own roommate and friend group of six all tested positive.

Muro said the school should have tested students before the semester began and that all colleges should have expected that students who have “been stuck in their houses for months” would “want to go out and meet people.”

“So yes, it’s on the kids for going out to a party in the pandemic, but it’s also that we didn’t get tested,” said Muro, who said she avoided large parties. “We wouldn’t have had this big of an outbreak.”

Muro is one of about 600 Oneonta students who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the semester began Aug. 24. The outbreak prompted officials at the 6,000-student school to switch last week to remote learning for the rest of the semester and send on-campus students home, decisions new SUNY chairman Jim Malatras has blamed on “reports of several large parties.”

Muro wants people to know they can get sick even if they follow all guidelines, like she did, and they can spread the coronavirus even if they don’t have symptoms, she said. 

Oneonta spokeswoman Kim MacLeod said the school “took swift and aggressive action” to “test every student on campus as soon as positive cases were identified and provided results back to students within a couple of days.” Students were quarantined immediately, and officials are working with health departments to safely send students home, she said. 

Oneonta also required students to isolate for a week before the semester began, MacLeod said. But Muro said based on conversations she had with several schoolmates, that wasn’t possible for many.

Muro said she went through pool testing Aug. 30 after more than 100 students tested positive. She said she didn’t have any symptoms until later that night, when she had a fever, and later lost her sense of taste and had a stuffy nose. But while she was not having any symptoms, Muro said she went to the dining hall, around her dorm and hung out with friends. She added that she didn’t learn she was positive until Sept. 3, which she said was too long.

“I was basically infecting everyone around me,” Muro, a business economics major, said.

Muro said she followed health guidelines, including wearing a mask around the dorm and campus, but was in contact with many students while walking around the school and trying to make friends. She said she only attended parties with 15 to 20 people, which was smaller than Oneonta’s permitted in-person event capacity of 25 people, according to its Fall Re-Start Plan website. 

The outbreak has been stressful for her parents, Kevin and Kristine. Kevin Muro said it was difficult for their daughters to get tested, and that he and his wife weren’t sure whether to bring their daughters home over concern that they might infect the rest of the family — including their 14-year-old son, who is starting school this week — and their community. Kaitlyn will stay in Oneonta, partly to avoid the same fate of other students who tested positive once they returned home. The family will take extra precautions to bring Amanda home once her departure is cleared by health officials, her father said.

“It’s tough because you’re not sure what to do,” said Kevin Muro, 51, who owns a construction company.

Muro’s senior year of high school was cut short by the pandemic, and now her first semester of campus college life has abruptly ended. Muro said she was alone all day with nothing to do, although she admitted the isolation dorm food was better than usual dorm fare. And she is worried about potentially infecting her parents once she goes home, even with health department clearance.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Muro said. 

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