Chancellor, President Duffy announce expanded pool testing

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October 01, 2020

Queensbury, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and SUNY Adirondack President Kristine D. Duffy today announced that the college will expand its on-campus pooled surveillance testing program done in partnership with SUNY Upstate Medical University. Beginning this week, the college will every two weeks test approximately 600 community members, including faculty and staff, and students who either live on or commute to campus.

The announcement follows the completion of the latest round of pooled surveillance testing, in which 236 people were tested for the virus. Not one of those tests came back positive. SUNY Adirondack has just one active positive case that was discovered through off-site testing. So far this semester, the college has conducted 353 pooled tests. All of those tests have come back negative. 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.  

“The tremendous work of SUNY Adirondack leaders and students to keep coronavirus off campus is evident in their latest pool testing results, which returned zero positive cases,” said Chancellor Malatras. “Still, President Duffy and her team are committed to expanding testing even further—proof that we will not rest on our laurels and that we will continue to do everything in our power to keep the COVID-19 beast at bay. SUNY Adirondack is part of a larger success story that’s beginning to take shape across our university system. Several colleges have recently completed hundreds of pool tests with positivity rates well below one percent, pushing SUNY’s overall positivity down and instilling confidence that if we all work together, we can do this. I want to thank President Duffy and her team for embracing Upstate Medical’s new, nation-leading test, and SUNY Adirondack students for rising to the moment, protecting one another, and demonstrating what this university system is capable of.”  

SUNY Adirondack President Duffy said, “The pooled testing protocol was yet one more important health and safety measure that SUNY Adirondack implemented as part of our Safe.Smart.Ready planning. Daily health screening and checkpoints, widespread compliance for face coverings and social distancing, and reducing density on campus to 25 percent of a normal fall semester are all important measures that we hope will continue to keep our community safe. I am proud of our campus community for taking this public health crisis seriously. We appreciate our partners at Upstate Medical University for creating a smooth and easy process for us to implement this important precautionary measure.” 

State Senator Betty Little said, “This innovative and efficient means of testing for COVID is a ‘game changer’ for our SUNY system and the students it serves. In just a very short time, Chancellor Malatras has proven to be a hands-on, proactive leader working effectively with President Duffy and all the SUNY presidents to improve safety on our campuses. That’s job one. And, as we look ahead to economic recovery, I know we can count on our SUNY system to be at the forefront of helping so many people get their lives back on track.”

SUNY is employing and continually building on a three-pronged strategy for combatting COVID-19 on campuses. It includes strict safety enforcement, data transparency that drives decisive action to prevent outbreaks, and aggressive pooled surveillance testing.

SUNY Adirondack has prevented COVID-19 thanks in part to widespread student safety compliance. SUNY’s system-wide, uniform emergency safety protocols that strengthen penalties for reckless behavior and non-compliance go into effect today. Student violators now 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 129,000 tests since the fall semester began, with a positivity rate of 0.67 percent. Over the past seven days, SUNY campuses have conducted more than 26,000 tests, with a positivity rate of 0.40 percent.

SUNY has been able to conduct more than 129,000 tests this semester thanks to a series of major breakthroughs at SUNY Upstate Medical.

Last 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 now process 120,000 test samples per week 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, swabbing their mouths and provide the saliva samples to Upstate Medical. Their samples are combined into one, which is tested for 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.

SUNY also recently struck deals with UUP, CSEA, and PEF to greatly expand testing for faculty and staff.