New SUNY Chancellor Malatras Tours Campus, Announces New Pooled Surveillance Testing
State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today joined SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi to announce the launch of pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19 on the Plattsburgh campus.
This aggressive testing method — developed at SUNY Upstate Medical University and approved by the New York State Department of Health — greatly expands the college’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
In making his first visit to the college as chancellor — and second to a SUNY campus since being named Friday, Aug. 21 — Malatras also reviewed SUNY Plattsburgh’s reopening plan, which was approved by SUNY earlier this summer, with Enyedi and Student Association President Rudaba Abmed and talked with students about the upcoming semester and the importance of COVID-19 safety precautions.
“As SUNY Plattsburgh resumes in-person classes this week, it is crucial that we have the most advanced and aggressive testing program at our disposal in place,” the chancellor said. “By launching pooled surveillance testing, we can run up to 25 samples as part of one test, giving SUNY Plattsburgh the ability to identify, trace, isolate, and treat cases much faster and ensure the safety of our students — which is always our No. One priority.
"I want to thank SUNY Plattsburgh President Enyedi for this leadership in restarting his campus safely. By adopting this advanced testing protocol — which was developed at SUNY Upstate Medical University with the help of the public and private sectors — we are harnessing strategic partnerships and scaling system-wide ingenuity and innovation for the benefit of our students’ safety, health, and well being."
The campus walk included stops at Hawkins Hall, Hawkins Pond, the Angell College Center, the Student Health and Counseling Center, and Clinton Dining Hall, among other locations.
"It is a pleasure to welcome our new chancellor to campus and show him what our successful restart looks like," Enyedi said. "Our campus worked incredibly hard for four months on a plan and is now implementing the day-to-day details, including protocols that have helped us manage isolations and quarantines to keep our campus safe while continuing to provide a quality educational experience."
North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas joined the walk, noting it was nice to have the chancellor visit days from the appointment.
"He's been a great partner to us in the North Country for the past decade in other key roles with the governor, and we truly look forward to an active and productive connection going forward," Douglas said. "As we eventually emerge from this pandemic, our area remains ready to continue building its international manufacturing base, particularly in the field of transportation equipment and aerospace and to take our productive economic partnership with Quebec to entirely new levels. The chancellor understands these strategies, and I know, under his leadership, SUNY will be a truly great collaborator.”
Pooled Surveillance Testing
Earlier this summer, SUNY was approved by the New York State Department of Health to undertake pooled surveillance testing for COVID-10 — an innovative method where numerous samples can be run as part of one test. SUNY's pooled testing approach was developed and validated by Upstate Medical's laboratory and Quadrant Biosciences using saliva samples, pooled in batch samples as small as 10 and large as 25.
"The saliva pool test is an exciting innovation developed in-house by SUNY scientists and will allow us to closely monitor potential cases on campus throughout the rest of the semester, adding another layer as we strive to protect the health safety of campus and the local community," Enyedi said.
The pooled testing allows for 10 to 25 people to be screened in one test. The testing can be done using saliva rather than by swabs that are inserted in a patient’s nose. Individuals administer the tests themselves, swabbing their mouths for 10 or 15 seconds each, then provide the saliva samples to medical personnel.
Their samples are combined into one, which is tested for coronavirus. A negative test means that all 10 to 25 people in the group are presumed at the time to be coronavirus-free. A positive test for the pool would mean every person in that group would need to be individually tested by a PCR test.
The pooled testing simplifies sample collection processes, making it feasible to collect samples on a large scale and during a short period of time. It also reduces the total number of tests needed and accelerates turn-around time from specimen collection to testing results.
“We are pleased to support SUNY Plattsburgh’s reopening plans with the saliva-testing protocol we have developed at SUNY Upstate Medical University with our StartUp New York partner, Quadrant Biosciences,” said Dr. Mantosh Dewan, interim president of SUNY Upstate Medical. “The work of preparing for the safe return of students to campus is important as New York responds to the COVID pandemic.”
SUNY Plattsburgh resumed classes Monday. Half of the college’s courses are being offered remotely, and approximately one-third will take place face-to-face in modified classrooms.
Prior to the academic year, campus leaders evaluated classrooms for density, moved and adjusted furniture, installed signage and Plexiglas when needed, and acquired personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and MERV-13 filters.All students, faculty, and staff are required to wear masks or other face coverings in classrooms, restrooms, elevators, lecture halls, common spaces, studios, and labs whenever they are occupied by more than one person. Students, faculty, and staff are all also required to self-screen daily.