CANTON — About a month into the 2020-21 academic year, the four members of the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley in Canton and Potsdam have tested a total of 12,288 students and employees for COVID-19.
Ten total confirmed positives have been logged — two each at SUNY Canton, Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University, and four at SUNY Potsdam.
“We just can’t get COVID fatigue,” Kelly O. Chezum said Monday. “We have to maintain vigilance.”
Ms. Chezum, Clarkson University vice president for marketing and external relations, said 378 tests were administered last week as part of the university’s weekly randomized surveillance testing, which will continue throughout the semester. All results from last week’s tests were negative, the university reports.
Unlike each school’s initial procedures, which involved testing every student upon arrival to campus last month, surveillance testing is designed to identify clusters and potential spread without re-testing everyone each week.
Clarkson’s weekly surveillance program tests about 300 people, and SLU hosts weekly testing clinics on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for students and employees randomly selected. Surveillance testing at SLU — “critical to quickly isolating any outbreaks,” according to vice president for communications Paul W. Redfern — will result in any given student being tested at least once about every three weeks.
SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton are using Upstate Medical University laboratories in Syracuse, following SUNY Chancellor James J. Malatras’ announcement earlier this month that all state universities will implement continued surveillance using pooled saliva tests.
The SUNY-wide program was developed by Upstate Medical experts and Quadrant Biosciences, a Syracuse-based start-up, and approved by the state Department of Health in August. By pooling samples, between 10 and 25 people can be screened in one COVID-19 test, allowing more than 15,000 samples to be analyzed each day at Upstate Medical’s neuroscience research building.
Individuals administer a saliva swab themselves, swabbing the mouth for about 15 seconds. With samples then pooled together, a negative result means the individuals in that group are presumed negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. A positive result prompts a retest of each sample in the pool to identify individual positives.
“We have experienced first-hand the intrinsic value of the fast and efficient pooled-saliva testing at SUNY Canton,” University President Zvi Szafran said earlier this month, adding that the program has provided a “sense of security” for the campus community.
SUNY Potsdam begins its pooled saliva surveillance testing this week. The university previously used Enzo Clinical Labs, headquartered on Long Island, and LabCorp in Watertown. After this initial week of retesting all residential and local students — those living within a 15-mile radius of campus — the university will start random surveillance testing of 50% of its on-campus and local students every week.
Clarkson University faculty and students, led by Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Shane Rogers, have been working on developing effective wastewater surveillance in its labs. Clarkson plans to begin monitoring its wastewater, as well as wastewater samples from SLU, by the end of the month.