SUNY announced on Friday, Sept. 4 that all SUNY schools now have the capacity to test every on-campus student for COVID-19 every two weeks.
The larger testing capacity is due to advancements in surveillance testing from the Upstate Medical University and University at Albany. According to SUNY’s press release on Sept. 4, SUNY now has the capacity to conduct more than 100,000 tests per week.
“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,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in the press release.
Surveillance testing (or “pool testing”) is a method approved by the New York State Department of Health where saliva samples of 10 to 25 people are combined and tested as one. If that sample is negative, every individual whose saliva was in that sample is deemed negative for COVID-19. If that sample is positive, those individuals would be tested again individually to determine where the positive cases are.
Since this new surveillance testing uses saliva from the mouth, individuals can swab their own mouths instead of having a staff member insert a swab into their nose.
Combining samples from multiple individuals means the labs can test more people than if every person had to get their own sample tested individually. A faster testing process enabled SUNY to have the capacity to test on-campus students every two weeks for all SUNY campuses.
“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,” according to the press release.
As of Thursday, Sept. 10, there has been no announcement from SUNY New Paltz on how, or if, they will move from their current schedule of testing each student once a semester to testing each student every two weeks.
While SUNY New Paltz students await any updates to the COVID-19 testing schedule, fourth-year adolescent education and English major Marissa Ammon hopes they make the switch to the surveillance testing method.
“I hope that this new method of testing with mouth swabs will be very accessible on the New Paltz campus,” Ammon said. “I think students should have the option of which test they prefer.”
In addition to this new testing method, SUNY has developed a COVID-19 case tracker that details the amount of people tested and the amount of positive cases on each SUNY campus and SUNY-wide.
As of Thursday, Sept. 10, SUNY campuses have administered 38,466 COVID-19 tests, with 488 testing as COVID-19 positive.
UPDATE 9/18/20: SUNY New Paltz announced on Sept. 16 that mandatory pool testing will be instituted beginning Sept. 21 and will not replace the mandatory individual testing already in place.