The State University of New York has administered more than 100,000 COVID tests across its campuses, and recently reached agreements with three unions mandating regular testing of staff and faculty, the public-university system announced.
SUNY implemented a testing program across its 64 campuses in early September. So far, 129,400 COVID tests have been provided, with 1,999 coronavirus cases in total.
'Can Keep Them Open Safely'
“SUNY's robust effort to conduct 100,000 in-house tests over the course of a month with a positivity rate that's well below 1 percent and continually dropping shows that by coming together with the right planning and execution, we can keep our campuses open safely," said SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras.
The public-university system announced an agreement Sept. 15 requiring staff and faculty represented by United University Professions to be tested, then reached similar terms with the Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association over the following 11 days.
“SUNY and UUP have the same goal: to protect students and to provide them with an outstanding education under these very challenging circumstances. We will continue to meet that challenge,” said UUP President Fred Kowal, who represents 37,000 members.
Mr. Kowal said the widespread testing “will help us pinpoint and isolate cases on our campuses, avoid outbreaks, and most importantly—keep our dedicated faculty members safe.”
All employees who must perform in-person work are required to be tested. The testing is mandatory through Dec. 31, is free and has been conducted during regular work hours, according to SUNY.
“This testing agreement between SUNY and PEF will help safeguard the health of state employees as they return to work," said PEF President Wayne Spence.
Mr. Malatras highlighted the work performed by CSEA members. “[They] have been on the frontlines of the COVID crisis from the very beginning, doing everything from keeping our facilities clean to getting students their meals safely,” he said. “They deserve access to the same testing being offered to students and faculty members.”
CSEA President Mary Sullivan stated that she hoped the agreement “will have the additional benefit of keeping campuses open and people working."
SUNY is capable of processing 120,000 test samples per week because of “breakthrough” individual saliva tests that have recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at SUNY Upstate Medical University. The public-university system has estimated that every student could be tested every two weeks.
Campuses with more than 100 cases must shift to remote classes full-time. So far, SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Oswego have transitioned to online learning. SUNY has also increased penalties for students who violate COVID protocols such as self-isolating and holding large gatherings, up to academic or housing suspension, or permanent dismissal.
Despite the progress, Mr. Kowal urged the individual campuses to up the ante on testing. “We need campus administrators to greatly increase the scope and frequency of the testing of students for COVID-19,” he said.
Photo above courtesy of SUNY
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