Chancellor Jim Malatras and SUNY Purchase Interim President Dennis Craig Announce Launch of Pooled Surveillance Testing for COVID-19 on SUNY Purchase Campus

August 27, 2020

Aggressive Approach Developed at SUNY Upstate Medical University Dramatically Expands Testing Capacity for Fall Semester 

Chancellor Malatras, President Craig Also Review Campus Reopening Plans in Advance of Fall Semester Classes

Photos from SUNY Chancellor’s Visit are Available Online

Purchase, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today joined SUNY Purchase Interim President Dennis Craig to announce the launch of pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19 on the campus. This aggressive testing method – developed at SUNY Upstate Medical University and approved by the New York State Department of Health – will allow SUNY Purchase to test every student who is living on campus or who is commuting to campus for in-person coursework. Testing will take place throughout the semester at regular intervals to surveil the campus community to ensure a low positivity rate. Nearly 1,000 students living on campus or taking in-person classes will be tested. Chancellor Malatras and Interim President Craig also reviewed SUNY Purchase’s reopening plan, which was approved by SUNY system earlier this summer, in advance of fall semester classes beginning on August 31.

"It is imperative that we take every precaution to contain any possible cases of COVID-19 on our college campuses," said Chancellor Malatras. "As some students return to campus, we are launching a pooled surveillance testing regimen, allowing the college to identify, trace, isolate, and treat cases much more quickly. This is key to minimizing any potential spread and to keeping our students safe. I want to thank Interim President Dennis Craig and his leadership team, who put careful thought and consideration into their students’ unique needs and circumstances as they crafted an evidence-based reopening plan that prioritizes student safety while still maintaining academic continuity."

"It was a pleasure to welcome our new Chancellor to Purchase College to discuss how we are working to safeguard the health of our community while continuing to provide our students with a high quality and engaging educational experience," said SUNY Purchase Interim President Craig. "My colleagues across the campus worked diligently for several months to enable us to reach this point, where we are ready to welcome back the percentage of our students who need face to face instruction as well as those who can benefit from the support the college offers them. While we have several public health protocols in place for social distancing, mask wearing, testing, tracing, and isolation, we're excited about the work SUNY is doing to enhance our resources and efforts. We believe pool testing will be an important tool that will allow us to keep a close eye on potential cases and to help mitigate the spread of the virus for the health and wellbeing of our entire community."

"I want to thank the Governor and Chancellor Malatras for their commitment to the health and safety of the students at SUNY Purchase," said Westchester County Executive George Latimer. "I applaud SUNY for their work launching the pooled surveillance testing regimen while also continuing their commitment to academics. Purchase is located in the middle of Westchester, and every precaution needs to be taken to protect these students, but also the community members they interact with around the County."

"We are pleased to support SUNY Purchase’s reopening plans with the saliva-testing protocol we have developed here at SUNY Upstate Medical University with our Start Up New York partner, Quadrant Biosciences," said Mantosh Dewan, MD, Interim President of SUNY Upstate Medical University. "The work of preparing for the safe return of students to campus is important as New York responds to the COVID pandemic."

Earlier this summer, SUNY was approved by the New York State Department of Health to undertake pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19—an innovative method where numerous samples can be run as part of one test. SUNY's pooled testing approach was developed and validated by SUNY Upstate Medical University's laboratory and Quadrant Biosciences, and will use saliva samples, pooled in batches as small as 10 samples and as large as 25 samples.

The pooled testing allows for about 10-25 people to be screened in one test. The testing can be done using saliva rather than by swabs that are inserted in a patient’s nose. Individuals administer the tests themselves, swabbing their mouths for 10 or 15 seconds each, and provide the saliva samples to medical personnel.

Their samples are combined into one, which is tested for coronavirus. A negative test means that all 10-25 people in the group are presumed at the time to be coronavirus-free. A positive test for the pool would mean every person in that group would need to be individually tested by a PCR test.

The pooled testing simplifies sample collection processes, making it feasible to collect samples at a large scale and during a short period of time. It also reduces the total number of tests needed and accelerates the turn-around time from specimen collection to testing results.

SUNY Purchase resumes classes this coming Monday, with about 750 students returning to live on campus. That includes those unable to commute to in-person classes and those with special circumstances. With the population density of Westchester County, the large number of students who commute from New York City, the amount who rely on public transit, and the general movement of the student population through high risk areas, SUNY Purchase is offering all classes remotely. However, faculty compiled a list of classes that require in-person instruction for students to stay on track toward graduation. A quarter of students are enrolled in classes that will use some in-person instruction. All in-person classes will be supplemented by remote learning. For students who will be on campus, strict protocols for face-coverings and social distancing will be in place. All-in person instruction will conclude by Thanksgiving with students finishing the semester remotely.

Today's visit marked Chancellor Malatras' fourth college visit in five 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 announced the launch of pooled surveillance testing at SUNY Plattsburgh. On Wednesday, he announced the acceleration of pooled surveillance testing at the University at Albany.

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, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-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 are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than 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

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