Chancellor Malatras Announces SUNY Upstate Medical University to Partner with New York Power Authority to Test Essential Utility Workers for COVID-19 Using Upstate’s #1 Ranked Saliva Test

December 23, 2020

Agreement Provides Regular Mandatory Testing of Essential Employees in NYPA Locations within Communities Showing a COVID Positivity Rate of 7.5% or Higher

NYPA Employee Testing Program is SUNY's Most Recent Partnership to Test More Essential Workers Following a Similar Program for Albany International Airport

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today announced with Upstate Medical President Mantosh Dewan M.D. and New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones, a mandatory COVID-19 testing program for NYPA's utility employees who are essential to the operation and maintenance of NYPA's statewide power system. The testing program will use Upstate's Clarifi COVID-19 saliva test, which was recently ranked number one by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for being the most sensitive saliva test and detecting the virus in its earliest stages and sixth globally among all COVID-19 tests.

As part of the agreement, SUNY will provide NYPA with the capability to regularly test NYPA's essential employees, including power generation and transmission staff, in locations within communities showing a COVID-19 positivity rate of 7.5 percent or higher. Testing is currently taking place at NYPA's Niagara Power Plant in Lewiston, NY. The NYPA essential employee testing program is SUNY's most recent partnership to test more of New York's essential workers, and follows a similar program for Albany International Airport announced in the beginning of the month.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been looking at resources differently in order to protect our students, faculty, and staff from this health crisis, and in doing so, SUNY and Upstate Medical has been able to expand capacity to test more essential workers for COVID at its earliest stages when individuals are asymptomatic," said Chancellor Malatras. "Upstate's saliva test is ranked highly because it can detect trace amounts of the virus, and it has a quick turnaround within 48 hours and is cost effective. We are pleased to work with President Quiniones to offer this test to the employees of NYPA, who are critical to our state, especially now in winter, as power for heat is needed across the state and as we continue to arm our hospitals to fight against COVID. I also want to thank President Dewan and his staff at Upstate Medical for all they are doing to expand the positive impact that SUNY's academic medicine sector has had on managing the pandemic through research, testing, and excellent patient care."

"NYPA is grateful for the work of our fellow New Yorkers in developing this groundbreaking test which will enable us to test our most critical staff so that we can maintain the reliability and resiliency of our power generation and transmission operations," said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. "Before the new vaccines can be fully deployed and as we move into a resurgent phase of the pandemic, this test is a powerful tool in our arsenal to protect the health and safety of our valued employees, whose specialized expertise is needed to keep the lights on at hospitals and the ventilators running so that we are at the ready to help our most vulnerable in their fight against COVID-19."

Upstate Medical President Dewan said, "Upstate is pleased to play a role in the testing of these authority employees whose role in our state's power system is so vital to the health, economy and well-being of our state. The testing we developed with Quadrant Biosciences has provided us with a reliable, highly sensitive and cost-effective technology for detecting COVID and slowing its spread. Together with SUNY System, we welcome the opportunity to partner with key industries across New York, as we work in tandem to combat this pandemic."

NYPA, an essential service operator that generates approximately 25 percent of the state's power and owns and operates approximately one-third of New York's transmission system, will use the COVID-19 test on generation and transmission staff at key locations across the state. NYPA's initial sites include the Niagara Power Project in Western New York; transmission control sites in Oneida County; and the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project in Schoharie County. Other sites may be added as COVID conditions warrant.

Last March, at the beginning of the pandemic, NYPA isolated more than 80 power plant control room and transmission control operators for a period of several months. The sequestration helped keep key operations staff safe and healthy, which enabled NYPA's core generation and transmission functions to continue uninterrupted. Many of NYPA's customers, including hospitals, police and fire departments, schools and nursing homes, rely on its power for mission-critical equipment and efforts. The Clarifi COVID saliva test, along with other new and improved tools for combatting the virus, promises to significantly reduce the burden and sacrifice of many of NYPA's essential workers as they continue working to power New York State.

SUNY began its voluntary testing program of employees at Albany International Airport on Friday, December 11. Albany International Airport staffs a facility to provide tests to employees. Tests are handed out and employees may administer it themselves on site, and then tests are collected and sent to Upstate Medical for analysis. The same protocol will occur with NYPA essential employees. Test results are typically available within 48 hours.

About SUNY Upstate Medical's Pooled Surveillance Testing

SUNY has been able to conduct more than 200,000 tests a week this semester thanks to a series of major breakthroughs at SUNY Upstate Medical. Both the New York State Department of Health and FDA gave 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 was able to conduct COVID tests on students, faculty and staff on SUNY campuses throughout the fall semester.

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

Individuals administer the tests themselves by swabbing their mouths. Samples are given to Upstate Medical and combined into a pool, which is tested for COVID 19 virus. A negative test means that all 10-25 people in the group are presumed to be coronavirus-free at the time of testing.

A positive test for the pool requires each individual saliva sample within the pool to be tested again to pinpoint the positive case or 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 NYPA

NYPA, the largest state public power organization in the nation, is a leader in providing clean, renewable energy and has done so since its founding in 1931 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. More than 80% of the nearly 25% of the state's electricity that NYPA generates is clean, renewable hydropower. NYPA plays a leadership role in making the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) come to fruition through strategic, smart investments in renewable energy and innovative technologies. Through large scale renewable projects, statewide energy efficiency work, and infrastructure support for the electrification of the transportation sector, NYPA is actively pursuing clean energy strategies, so that New Yorkers today and in the future will benefit from a cleaner environment, well-paying clean energy sector jobs, and a reliable, resilient, affordable and state-of-the-art, nation-leading energy system. Operating 16 generating facilities and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines, NYPA uses no tax money financings its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of low-cost electricity. For more information visit www.nypa.gov and follow us on Twitter @NYPAenergy, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

 

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 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 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 suny.edu.


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