September 1, 2020

President Terenzio Hands Out Suspensions for Students Hosting and Attending Parties Over the Weekend

Now in its Third Week of On-campus Instruction, Only Two SUNY Cobleskill Students Had Tested Positive for Covid-19

Cobleskill Campus to Utilize SUNY Upstate Medical’s Pooled Surveillance and Saliva Diagnostic Testing

Photos from Chancellor’s and President’s Meeting Today with Students and Faculty Available Online

Cobleskill, NY – State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras and SUNY Cobleskill President Marion Terenzio met on campus today to launch immediate pooled saliva testing for the coronavirus after 12 students failed to comply with campus COVID-19 safety requirements. Each student has been suspended by President Terenzio for hosting and attending parties over the weekend.

Now in its third week of on-campus instruction, only two SUNY Cobleskill students had tested positive for the coronavirus during that time and those cases were immediately addressed. SUNY Cobleskill will utilize SUNY Upstate Medical’s pooled surveillance testing and its newly approved saliva diagnostic testing, which was announced earlier today.

“President Terenzio and the entire SUNY Cobleskill community have done a phenomenal job to keep each other safe with a comprehensive plan that is being smartly implemented,” said Chancellor Malatras. “But we can’t go backwards. I fully support President Terenzio’s decision to suspend these 12 students. My thanks to Marion for initiating pooled testing today, and for the SUNY Cobleskill community, particularly our students, for staying the course and doing what is right to protect one another. This is what leadership looks like.”

“The vast majority of SUNY Cobleskill’s on-campus students are complying with college safety protocols designed to limit the spread of Covid-19,” said SUNY Cobleskill President Terenzio. “We must take a strong stand on this risky behavior that violates our code of conduct and jeopardizes students who want to continue their education on campus. Protecting the campus community is paramount, and non-compliance with our approved safety plan will not be tolerated. There will be time to enjoy the full campus experience, but now is the time to be a responsible member of the community and learn what it takes to be selfless in this process.”

Senator James L. Seward said, “It is vital that our colleges keep the lines of communication open and work closely with local officials as we work to establish safety protocols to best respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I commend Chancellor Malatras for his attention to detail and his concern for SUNY students, staff, and the surrounding community. By visiting SUNY Cobleskill, and collaborating with President Terenzio and area leaders, I am certain that the best possible plan will be enacted.”

In the event that positive cases are detected after SUNY Cobleskill’s pooled surveillance testing, students with coronavirus cases will be quarantined and the campus will work with the Schoharie County Department of Health to conduct contract tracing.

Mantosh Dewan, MD, Interim President of SUNY Upstate Medical University said, “We are pleased to support SUNY Cobleskill’s reopening with the saliva-testing protocol we have developed here at SUNY Upstate Medical University with our Start Up New York partner, Quadrant Biosciences. The work of keeping our students safe on campus is important as New York responds to the COVID pandemic.”

Earlier this month, SUNY was approved by the New York State Department of Health to undertake pooled surveillance testing for COVID-19—an innovative method where numerous samples can be run as part of one test. SUNY’s pooled testing approach was developed and validated by SUNY Upstate Medical University and Quadrant Biosciences, and will initially use saliva samples, pooled in batches as small as 10 samples and as large as 25 samples.

The pooled testing allows for about 10-25 people to be screened in one test. The testing can be done using saliva swabs rather than by swabs inserted in a person’s nose. Individuals administer the tests themselves, swabbing their mouths for 10 or 15 seconds each, and provide the saliva samples to staff to be sent to Upstate Medical.

Their samples are combined into one, which is tested for SARS-CoV-2 virus. A negative test means that all 10-25 people in the group are presumed at the time to be coronavirus-free. A positive test for the pool would mean each individual saliva sample within the pool would need to be tested again individually to pinpoint exact positive cases.

The combination of surveillance pool testing and the saliva diagnostic testing announced today enables this rapid re-testing to occur without the need to collect a new sample, and thus provides the ability to rapidly screen more than 15,000 samples a day in a single lab, to identify the infected individuals.

Unlike some currently used tests that have produced a wave of recent false positive findings, this test also exhibits markedly improved specificity in both individual and pooled saliva testing.