Pooled Testing Updates

September 21, 2020

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Dear Brockport Community:

Last week, SUNY Brockport participated in its first batch of surveillance pooled testing. This non-invasive, saliva-based test was given to approximately 300 students. I am pleased to report that all of the tests came back negative. This is fantastic news. It shows that our mitigation strategies are working and demonstrates that the sacrifices we’re all making are helping to keep each other safe. With very few exceptions, our students have taken seriously the need to Protect the Nest, and I am particularly grateful to you for the sacrifices you are making to study here on campus.

But this is just the beginning. Last week was our pilot effort. It enabled us to refine our processes as we prepare to ramp up our surveillance testing efforts to conduct 1,000 pooled tests a week, for students, faculty, and staff members. We have already conducted 500 tests this week, with more planned for tomorrow. As we learn more, and as we get additional guidance from SUNY, we are likely to continue to make small adjustments to our overall plans for campus. For example, today we added the men’s soccer team to the COVID-19 testing, based on the information received over the weekend, and tomorrow we will be adding students who are moving residence halls later in the week, because we want to ensure that new student pairs or suitemates are all testing negative prior to the move.

Last week, SUNY reached an agreement with United University Professionals (UUP) to begin mandatory testing of faculty and staff who are part of this collective bargaining unit. On Wednesday, we will be meeting with campus UUP leadership to confirm the process for conducting the tests for UUP members. There are ongoing system-wide discussions with other labor unions, and while they are being finalized, we are seeking ways to make volunteer participation available to all other staff.

A number of you have asked for more information about our pooled testing program, which is offered to the College for a reduced cost through SUNY Upstate Medical University. Here are some of the highlights of the program:

  • Pool testing is an important surveillance tool that allows us to detect the virus in asymptomatic individuals – which should enable us to stop an outbreak before one begins.
  • It is a saliva-based test that pools samples from 12 individuals together. If a pool comes back negative, all 12 individuals are presumed healthy. If it comes back positive, pool participants will be individually tested and will undertake precautionary quarantine until tests come back that identify who in the pool is unwell (approximately 24-48 hours).
  • Testing must take place in the morning, as samples need to be delivered to SUNY Upstate Medical University by 3 pm in order to receive results within 24-48 hours.
  • We are making every effort to identify pools of students who have something in common – they live together, they participate in a sport or club together, etc. Some pools are also randomized in order to ensure that we are able to meet the 1000 tests a week requirement that SUNY put in place last week for a campus of our size.
  • We understand concerns regarding the need for some students to miss part of a class session in order to be tested. Unfortunately, coordinating pool testing around individual students’ class schedules is not feasible because of the need to pool students who live together. This enables us to quarantine these individuals together in their current living spaces, as opposed to requiring them to move into isolation/quarantine spaces on campus.
  • The entire testing experience should take less than 15 minutes, which should hopefully minimize the disruption that is caused. Students, if you are required to miss a scheduled class session, please let your professor know as soon as you are notified in case there are opportunities to attend a different class session or make up work.
     

As mentioned above, having student quarantine/isolation space available on campus is a key part of our plan. In order to double our quarantine and isolation space, in case of need (again based on new SUNY guidance), the Office of Residential Life/Learning Communities is working proactively with the students in Harmon Hall to identify alternative living arrangements on campus.

This pandemic has taught us that flexibility must be built in to all of our plans. But we all know that change, particularly sudden change, can be challenging. I am extraordinarily grateful to all of you for your willingness to adapt to change as we continue to refine and enhance our health and safety strategies.

Thank you for your all of your hard work. Together, we can Protect the Nest.

Sincerely,

President Macpherson

Last Updated 10/27/20

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