Chancellor Jim Malatras and University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez Announce Acceleration of Pooled Surveillance Testing Following UAlbany’s First COVID-19 Case

August 26, 2020

Aggressive Testing Regimen Developed by UAlbany's RNA Institute to Begin This Week, Will Allow Campus to Test 5,000 People Per Week

Chancellor Malatras, President Rodríguez also Review Campus Reopening Plan, Talk with Students about Importance of COVID-19 Safety Precautions

Photos from the SUNY Chancellor's Visit are Available Online

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today joined University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez to announce the acceleration of pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19 on the UAlbany campus. The announcement comes in response to UAlbany's first COVID-19 case, and will allow UAlbany to test 5,000 people per week—greatly expanding their campus testing capacity. Testing will begin this week. Chancellor Malatras also reviewed UAlbany's reopening plan with President Rodríguez and talked with students about the upcoming semester and the importance of COVID-19 safety precautions.

"We must take every precaution to contain COVID-19 and by accelerating pooled surveillance testing created by UAlbany's world renowned RNA Institute, they will be able to identify, trace, isolate, and treat those cases much faster, helping the campus reopen safely during this unprecedented time," said Chancellor Malatras. "The acceleration of this aggressive testing regimen will allow us to test thousands of students per week, and complements President Rodríguez's robust, evidence-based, multi-pronged reopening plan. As we talk with students on each campus visit, we continue to impress upon them the importance of following social distancing and other safety protocols. Campus safety plans – no matter how well thought out – will only succeed if they entire campus community is committed to doing everything in their power to keep themselves and those around them safe."

"Pooled surveillance testing is a critical part of our layered approach to stopping the spread of COVID-19," said UAlbany President Rodríguez. "UAlbany's significant academic and research expertise has been leveraged throughout the pandemic—and this is another example of that impact, led by our RNA Institute and School of Public Health, with support from every division across campus. It was a great pleasure to host Chancellor Malatras—a three-time UAlbany alumnus—and we deeply appreciate SUNY's support for our efforts as we continue to navigate COVID-19."

"When Albany County lost most of their community COVID-19 testing sites in late March before the apex of the pandemic in Upstate New York, I was proud to work with New York State and the University at Albany to get a testing facility running on campus," said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. "During these times, reopening our economy and our institutions is not necessarily the absence of the Coronavirus, it is having the proper testing regimen in place that allows us to isolate positive cases, contact trace and stop the spread. This pooled surveillance testing is a huge step in those efforts that will allow students to go back to in-person learning safely and with peace of mind. I couldn't be happier to have partners like President Rodríguez and Chancellor Malatras, who has really hit the ground running in this new position."

Earlier this summer, SUNY was approved by the New York State Department of Health to undertake pooled surveillance testing. UAlbany will be administering an in-house pooled surveillance testing program for the fall semester developed collaboratively by a team of scientists from UAlbany's RNA Institute and School of Public Health. The program will test asymptomatic students, faculty and staff in pools of four to help the campus monitor the presence of COVID-19 within the community and inform the University's response and limit the spread of the virus.

The testing will be mandatory for any students who live on campus or who are taking on-campus courses. Faculty and staff are also strongly encouraged to participate in the program. Test kits will be assembled outside under tents by teams of campus volunteers and distributed at a central location on campus. UAlbany collaborated with SUNY Upstate Medical University to develop their testing methodology.  

Before classes began, UAlbany students were required to provide proof of a negative COVID test, and the campus provided two-week quarantine space on campus for international students. With classes now underway, UAlbany has implemented strict safety policies requiring face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and cleaning protocols. Campus officials are limiting the number of people in all public spaces, including classrooms, the Campus Center, and libraries. Classes are being delivered through a combination of in-person, hybrid (in-person and online components), and fully online instruction. Students were given the opportunity to request an all-online course schedule. Residence halls are open at reduced capacity, and dining services are available with additional takeout and delivery options.

Today's visit marked Chancellor Malatras' third campus visit in four days and is part of his campus reopening tour. On Sunday, he visited SUNY New Paltz, where he announced $100,000 in seed funding for the SUNY Prepare Innovation and Internship Program. The program will offer grants to faculty across the SUNY system who are developing new technologies to improve the design and production of PPE. Proposals must include a student internship or research component. On Tuesday, he visited SUNY Plattsburgh to announce the launch of pooled surveillance testing on their campus.  

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. As of Fall 2019, more than 415,500 students were enrolled in a degree-granting program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide exceeded $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2019, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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