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SUNY students will get COVID-19 tests before leaving for Thanksgiving

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Upstate Medical University in Syracuse is ramping up its COVID-testing regimen to help SUNY’s plans for mandatory testing of students in the coming weeks and months.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced a new comprehensive plan that includes COVID-19 testing for the 140,000 on-campus students in the 64-campus system.  He said students will be tested before they leave campus for Thanksgiving.

"That’s important because we want to make sure, as our students are leaving and departing our system and campuses, they’re not carrying the virus home," Malatras said.

Students will also be tested as they return to campus for the spring semester. Upstate’s Dr. Frank Middleton, a researcher who helped developed the saliva test SUNY is using, said 80% of the lab’s work in coming weeks will involve student testing.

"We anticipated this request, we were advised it was coming, so we have diverted extra personnel, extra lab space, extra resources to meet the need,” Middleton said.

SUNY’s comprehensive plan for keeping the virus at bay in the spring, includes pushing the start date of the spring semester for in-person instruction until February 1, cancelling spring break and requiring students to complete a seven-day precautionary quarantine before they arrive on campus. Malatras said an aggressive strategy, so far, has worked.

"We’ve performed more than 378,000 tests on campuses across the system in the past semester, 0.47% positivity rate,” Malatras said. “If we were a state, we’d have the lowest positivity rate in the nation.”

Campuses will also provide handbooks to students detailing what they can expect going forward.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.