Chancellor Malatras Announces All SUNY Colleges and Universities to Implement Testing Program to Detect and Monitor COVID-19 Cases on Campuses

September 4, 2020

Recent Surveillance Testing Advancements at Upstate Medical University & University at Albany Make 100% Testing Capacity Possible for Every Student on Campus Every Two Weeks with the Capacity to Conduct more than 100,000 Tests a Week

New Testing Requirement will Ensure SUNY Students, Faculty, and Staff are Tested Regularly, Helping to Identify, Trace, and Contain the Virus Quickly

Albany – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today announced that all SUNY colleges and universities will implement a testing program to detect COVID-19 cases on campuses. The recently approved surveillance testing advancements at Upstate Medical University, as well as the University at Albany, makes 100 percent testing capacity possible for every student on campus every two weeks. This new requirement will ensure that SUNY students, faculty, and staff on campus are tested regularly, which helps college and university leadership and their local public health officials identify, trace, and contain the virus quickly.

"Safely reopening colleges by containing COVID-19 so our students can have academic success is our top priority, and by launching immediate surveillance testing on every campus, we are giving ourselves the best shot to identify the presence of this virus before it can spread further across a campus, possibly infecting hundreds of students, and forcing us to roll back the in-person offerings so many of our students find critical," said Chancellor Jim Malatras. "By installing regular surveillance testing of our on-campus population, we will be able to much better identify non-symptomatic carriers who otherwise may not have known to get tested. We will be able to greatly expand our testing capacity because of the brilliant scientists at Upstate Medical University and their partners at Quadrant Biosciences and the University at Albany's RNA Institute whose research and innovation has greatly expanded our system-wide testing capacity and made pooled surveillance testing on every campus a reality. The impact of their work is a testament to the true greatness that exists within this university system. I thank all of our college presidents for their leadership in getting this done."

SUNY Upstate Medical University Interim President Mantosh Dewan, MD said, "Keeping our students, campuses, and communities safe is of the utmost importance, and SUNY Upstate Medical University is grateful to be a part of that process. We thank SUNY Chancellor Malatras, the Department of Health, and others who have been instrumental in advancing this rapid testing protocol. Upstate stands ready to be of continued service to the state in managing this pandemic."

University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez said, "Pooled surveillance testing is a critical component of UAlbany's multilayered approach to health and safety. We are fortunate that our outstanding researchers at the RNA Institute and School of Public Health scientists have led the development of a robust in-house testing program—in collaboration with nearly every division across the university, along with generous support from SEFCU, our community partner."

The announcement of surveillance testing on every campus follows a major testing development driven by experts at SUNY Upstate Medical University. On Tuesday, the New York State Department of Health approved their saliva diagnostic test. The cost-effective and rapid screening can analyze more than 15,000 samples per day at SUNY Upstate's Neuroscience Research Building, in collaboration with Quadrant Biosciences—a Start-Up NY company supported by the state with key tax incentives.

In August, 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 and Quadrant Biosciences. It uses multiple saliva samples, allowing for between 10-25 people to be screened in one test. Since receiving approval, SUNY Upstate has been working with some of the SUNY campuses.

University at Albany is 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 was initially used to test asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff in pools of four to help the campus monitor the presence of COVID-19, and now it will be used for all students, faculty, and staff on campus.

The testing can be done using saliva swabs rather than by swabs inserted in a person's nose. Individuals administer the tests themselves, swabbing their mouths for 10 or 15 seconds each, and provide the saliva samples to staff to be sent to Upstate Medical.

Their samples are combined into one, which is tested for SARS-CoV-2 virus. 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 each individual saliva sample within the pool would need to be tested again individually to pinpoint exact positive cases.

The combination of surveillance pool testing and the saliva diagnostic testing enables this rapid re-testing to occur without the need to collect a new sample, and thus provides the ability to rapidly screen more than 15,000 samples a day in a single lab, to identify the infected individuals.

Unlike some currently used tests that have produced a wave of recent false positive findings, this test also exhibits markedly improved specificity in both individual and pooled saliva testing.

SUNY Upstate Medical University is conducting individual saliva diagnostic tests, and pooled surveillance and wastewater testing from its laboratories.

SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said, "Surveillance testing through Upstate Medical Center will dramatically increase SUNY Cortland's capacity to assess the health of our community and act early to stop the spread of COVID-19 among our students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. We welcome this initiative."

Alfred State President Skip Sullivan said, "Alfred State is glad to be adding pool testing to our myriad of measures to keep our campus safe and for early notification of any areas of concern. Thanks to SUNY Upstate Medical, we have this additional precaution that's extremely valuable."

Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner said, "We are grateful for the support of SUNY Chancellor Malatras and our colleagues at SUNY Upstate Medical University for making pooled surveillance testing possible at Buffalo State College. Although New York State has become the nation's leader in reducing the infection rate of COVID-19, we cannot let our guard down. Surveillance testing will allow us act early and isolate any positive cases that are discovered. We continue to urge all Bengals—on and off campus—to be New York Tough and do their part to keep our community safe. Wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, and wear your mask. We are in this together."

SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battles said, "In the interest of public health and safety for our college community, SUNY Geneseo recently announced our intention to conduct surveillance testing of students on our campus. We applaud Upstate Medical University's innovative work to expand the availability of testing in our system and State."

Purchase College Interim President Dennis Craig said, "We are grateful for SUNY's efforts on behalf of our campus community. Ensuring that we have the ability to test frequently and receive results quickly will help us safeguard the health and educational opportunities of our students while protecting our faculty, staff, and wider community as well."

SUNY Morrisville President David E. Rogers said, "In addition to our early adoption of wastewater testing, we were pleased to include pooled saliva testing as part of SUNY Morrisville's layered approach to guarding against the spread of COVID-19. News of expanding this testing capability, particularly now that it can be used as a diagnostic and individual test, is great news for all campus communities. We are particularly proud of our SUNY partners and neighbors at SUNY Upstate and grateful for the leadership they continue to provide within a system and a state that is pioneering success through this pandemic."

Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said, "As outlined in our Restart Plan and just as the State of New York is aggressively focusing on testing as part of a strategy to detect and control any new coronavirus outbreaks, Binghamton University is, too, focusing on testing to detect and control any outbreaks in our university community. The University will test through a combination of its own testing supply and its participation in a pooled testing approach being offered through SUNY Upstate Medical University."

SUNY Potsdam President Kristin G. Esterberg said, "We know that surveillance testing is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and maintaining the low numbers we have seen here in the North Country. Thanks to SUNY's leadership and support from our local public health partners, Potsdam is prepared. We will continue to follow the science and the real-time data to protect our campus and our community, and surveillance testing is key to those efforts."

SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley said, "SUNY Oswego extends its thanks to SUNY Upstate Medical University for helping our institution test approximately 6,000 students upon their arrival to campus this fall. Upstate's innovative pooled saliva testing allowed Oswego to meet our goal of screening students at the onset of the semester and establish a medical, scientific baseline for our campus. We look forward to the continued partnership as we move forward with surveillance testing."

SUNY Canton President Zvi Safran said, "We have experienced first-hand the intrinsic value of the fast and efficient pooled-saliva testing at SUNY Canton. The expedited results provided by SUNY Upstate Medical has led to a greater sense of security within our college community. The State University of New York has made the best decision possible to implement surveillance testing across the SUNY System through this innovative method. Thank you for helping make our campuses safer places to learn and grow together."

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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