Chancellor Malatras and Rockland Community College President Baston Announce Expanded Weekly COVID-19 Pooled Surveillance Testing

October 23, 2020

Weekly Testing of Students, Faculty, and Staff Reporting to Campus to Continue as County Listed as a Yellow Warning COVID Zone

To Date More Than 500 Tests of RCC Students, Faculty, and Staff Returned Zero Positives

SUNY Colleges Have Conducted More Than 247,000 Coronavirus Tests This Semester, 0.53% Have Come Back Positive

Photos From The Chancellor's Visit Are Available Online

Suffern, NY State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and Rockland Community College President Michael A. Baston today announced that the SUNY campus will expand its weekly pooled surveillance testing program of all students, faculty, and staff on campus done in partnership with SUNY Upstate Medical University. RCC has conducted more than 500 tests for students, faculty, and staff reporting on campus, which resulted in zero positive cases. Testing continued on campus today during the Chancellor's visit.

RCC tests about 350 individuals each week as Rockland County is listed as a yellow, or precautionary, zone. During today's visit to campus, Chancellor Malatras discussed the testing expansion and praised college leaders, faculty, staff, and students for their work to keep each other safe.

"When the overall surrounding community saw an increase in COVID-positive cases, Rockland Community College President Baston and his team stepped up with additional precautionary measures by conducting weekly testing of all students, faculty, and staff on campus," said Chancellor Malatras. "Testing results coming out of Rockland Community College are encouraging with no positive cases. But, we must remain vigilant and that is why President Baston and his team have been hard at work to convey the importance of masking up, keeping socially distanced, and putting the health and safety of others first, and I thank the student body for adapting to these new norms."

Rockland Community College President Baston said, "I'm so thankful to Chancellor Jim Malatras for taking the time to visit us here at Rockland Community College so that he could observe the mandatory testing taking place for our in-person students, as well as the other measures that have been in place since the pandemic began to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. In just one week, we have conducted over 500 tests and each result we have received back has been negative. At Rockland Community College, we are a community of care. We value science, and we value our healthcare heroes, especially our dedicated Nursing students who have volunteered their time in our area hospitals helping treat those affected by this terrible disease. We are proud that they will go on to serve some of the most esteemed healthcare institutions in our state following graduation. Finally, I want to acknowledge the hard work of the College's Emergency Planning and Response Team. It is thanks in large part to their efforts that the total number of positive cases among RCC students, faculty, and staff have remained so low since the pandemic began."

Rockland County Legislator Aney Paul, who holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, said, "As a medical professional, I know that the number one priority right now is to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The leadership of institutions and organizations like Rockland Community College play an important role in our efforts. With the campus inside the 'yellow zone,' vigilance is more important than ever, and I thank Chancellor Malatras and President Baston for further strengthening the campus testing program."

New York State Senator David Carlucci said, "Our number one priority is the safety of students, faculty, and staff. Rockland Community College is taking steps to ensure COVID-19 testing is available and done regularly to monitor and stop the spread of this virus. Students can better focus on their studies and feel safer knowing their college is responding to the pandemic quickly and responsibly. I thank Chancellor Malatras and President Baston for their hard work to stop the spread."

Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee said, "Since the Red and Yellow zones were established in Rockland, Rockland Community College (RCC) has done all that it can to remain vigilant against COVID-19 while balancing the needs of students. By setting up the cost-effective, pool testing strategy; our RCC students, faculty, and staff will be safe while attending classes and tracking and observing COVID-19 cases. I thank RCC President Baston and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras on their steadfast leadership, and their effective method of combating COVID-19 during this time."

Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski said, "Having Rockland Community College right in our backyard has always stood as a symbol of pride for this county and the way in which they've handled the COVID pandemic is no different. I applaud RCC's efforts to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. This testing expansion will only strengthen RCC's already successful program as they navigate operating in the yellow precautionary zone. I'd also like to thank SUNY for their aggressive strategy in combating this virus on their campuses, under Chancellor Malatras' leadership, SUNY's COVID protocols have set an example for colleges and universities across the nation to model."

SUNY is employing and continually building on a strategy to monitor and manage the pandemic on campuses, working in close partnership with state and local health departments and government officials. The strategy includes aggressive pooled surveillance testing of all students, faculty, and staff on campus, and reporting all results on the SUNY COVID-19 Tracker to ensure data transparency that drives decisive action to prevent outbreaks.

SUNY's system-wide, uniform emergency safety protocols has strengthened penalties for reckless behavior and non-compliance. Student violators face immediate academic and housing suspension, as well as possible dismissal, and student organizations in non-compliance face a permanent campus ban.

SUNY campuses have administered more than 247,000 tests on campus since the fall semester began, with a positivity rate of 0.53 percent. Over the last seven days, SUNY campuses have conducted 36,134 tests, with a positivity rate of 0.43 percent.

Thanks to major breakthroughs at SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY has the capacity to test 120,000 students each week. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Chancellor Malatras announced FDA approval for an individual saliva swab test developed by Upstate Medical and Quadrant Biosciences. By combining this groundbreaking individual saliva swab test with Upstate Medical's state-approved pooled testing protocol, SUNY can process all test samples in a single lab.

Both the individual test and the pooled test developed by Upstate Medical and Quadrant can be done using saliva swabs rather than by swabs inserted in a person's nose.

Individuals administer the tests themselves by swabbing their mouths and providing the saliva samples, which are sent to Upstate Medical. Their samples are combined into one and tested for the COVID-19 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 rapid retesting does not require people in the positive pool to return to submit an entirely new sample. This greatly accelerates the process and expands testing capacity.

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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