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State Health Dept. approves saliva diagnostic test to track COVID-19 in SUNY schools

Ellen Abbott / WRVO Public Media
Upstate lab workers processing saliva samples testing for COVID.

A more precise way of pool testing, developed by scientists at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, will help better track COVID-19 outbreaks at SUNY schools.

New SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the Department of Health will allow saliva diagnostic testing that can identify positive COVID cases at labs in Syracuse. Combined with testing pools of 10-25 people at a time, it means schools will be able to rapidly screen more than 15,000 individuals a day in a single lab.

Malatras said that is key to controlling the spread of COVID 19.

“Now, we cannot just know what’s going on, we can help better pinpoint the virus, address the virus, contain the virus,” Malatras said. “Understanding how the virus is spreading on a campus, by testing like this, is essential to maintain the ability to stay open, to give confidence to parents, students, faculty and staff. This is a really important thing.”

Malatras said this science has been key in corralling a COVID cluster at SUNY Oneonta. He suspended in-person instruction at Oneonta for two weeks after a handful of super-spreading events led to 3% of students testing positive, one week into the semester at the Otsego County school.

SUNY Upstate will now ramp up individual saliva testing for any SUNY campus that has already signed up for the pooled surveillance testing. 

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