Surveillance Testing at UAlbany
As part of our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, the University at Albany has developed a comprehensive and ongoing pooled surveillance testing program.
All students who are studying, working or visiting any of UAlbany’s campuses during the Fall 2020 semester — regardless of whether they live on or off campus — must participate.
All faculty and staff who are present on any of our campuses for any reason during the Fall 2020 semester are strongly encouraged to participate. UUP-represented employees who are required to work on campus must participate.
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have previously received a positive PCR diagnostic test result, or were diagnosed as positive for the virus by a physician, you should not participate in pooled testing.
Positive antibody test results suggest, but are not proof of, a prior infection, so they do not constitute a diagnosis. If you have only received a positive antibody test, you should still participate in pooled testing.
Learn how the program works — including how to get a test kit and what to do if you miss a testing day — below.
As a thank you to our participants, each week one student’s name will be randomly chosen from the pooled testing submissions to win a $500 OneUAlbany Award. This grant can be used to pay for non-tuition expenses, such as fees, on-campus housing and/or meal plans. Employees who are taking classes will also be eligible to win.
Please continue to monitor your UAlbany email and this website for important updates.
What is pooled surveillance testing?
Surveillance testing is one way to check the health of our overall community and get ahead of a potential outbreak.
Testing large numbers of people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms allows us to better understand how many people in total — not just those who have been diagnosed — have the infection.
In UAlbany’s pooled testing program, saliva samples are diluted, heat inactivated, grouped and processed by a lab to determine whether this pool is positive for the virus.
The individuals in each pool are randomly selected to protect confidentiality and scientific validity.
If a pool tests positive, this means at least one of the people in that group has the virus and all individuals will be contacted with instructions for diagnostic testing.
How does it work?
Participants will be provided with a test kit that includes saliva sample tubes and all other necessary items. Kits will be distributed on campus, as described below.
Once the program begins, a random selection of participants will be chosen each day to collect and drop off a saliva sample.
You will be randomly assigned two testing days per month during the semester.
When you run out of supplies in your first test kit, please obtain a second test kit and follow the same instructions you did the first time.
Residential Life staff will begin delivering a second round of kits to students who live on campus on October 5. Staff will deliver kits directly to students’ rooms, suites and apartments. Students who live in the Empire Commons can also pick up a kit inside the Community Building.
Students who live off campus, faculty and staff can get a test kit via contactless pickup at the following locations:
Uptown Campus: Campus Center Information Desks on the first floor and Podium level
The Information Desks are open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Downtown Campus: Richardson 102, outside the School of Social Welfare Dean’s Office
Richardson Hall is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You'll need to use your ID card to swipe into the building.
Health Science Campus: George Education Center 100, outside the School of Public Health Dean’s Office
The George Education Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You'll need to use your ID card to swipe into the building.
You need to register your testing kit online immediately after receiving it. Registering your kit starts the process for you as a participant, so this must be done within 24 hours.
Each kit contains a unique kit number and registration code, as well as the supplies you will need to provide three saliva samples.
When you register online, you will be asked to input your kit’s number and registration code, read the program overview and consent form, and then provide an electronic signature.
Once you’ve registered, be sure to store your test kit in a clean, safe place.
After you’ve registered your kit, you are signed up as a participant. Throughout the semester, participants will get important updates via phone and email.
Several times this semester, each participant will get an email with the date of their next testing day, when they need to collect and submit a saliva sample.
These notices will be sent to participants’ UAlbany email addresses five days before and one day before their next testing day.
Testing days will be assigned at random.
If the pooled sample with your saliva tests positive, you will receive a phone call from an authorized University employee, who will guide you through obtaining a diagnostic test and staying safe.
Note: You will not receive a call if your pool’s results are negative.
Several times this semester, you will receive an email saying it is your testing day. Watch a video on how to properly collect a saliva sample.
Please keep these items in mind:
Collect your saliva sample no earlier than noon on your testing day and drop off your saliva sample that day or before 8 a.m. the next day.
Do not eat, drink, gargle or brush your teeth in the 30 minutes before collecting your saliva sample.
Collect your saliva sample in a clean and private space, such as your home, car or sanitized bathroom. Be sure your kit is on a clean surface.
Steps for collecting a sample
Take a specimen collection bag, test tube and alcohol wipe from your kit.
Collect your saliva in the provided test tube and fill to the 1mL mark (where the pointed part ends).
Cap the test tube securely and wipe the outside of the test tube with the provided alcohol wipe.
Place the test tube inside the specimen collection bag and seal the bag.
Complete the date field on the bag’s label using a pen or permanent marker. This should be the day you collected your saliva.
Drop the completed specimen bag at the drop box location most convenient for you. (See Step 5 below for a list of drop box locations).
Having problems collecting a sample? These tips will help:
Please collect saliva that pools in the front of your mouth naturally. Don’t “hock” or produce saliva by force from the back of your throat.
It may take about 1 minute to collect enough saliva to dribble in the tube. Thinking of your favorite food or citrus may help speed this process up.
It is normal for saliva to foam. You should only fill the pointed section of the tube with saliva.
You must drop off your saliva sample before 8 a.m. the day after you collect it. (That means, if you collect your sample at 1 p.m. Tuesday, you must drop it off before 8 a.m. on Wednesday.)
That’s because couriers will empty the drop boxes at 8 a.m. each morning and take all samples to the RNA Institute for pooled testing.
You can drop off your saliva sample at the location most convenient for you:
Uptown Campus (Main Campus)
University Administration Building (UAB) — Lobby
UAB is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You'll need to use your ID card to swipe into the building.
Indian Quad — Dining Hall
Students who live on campus can use their ID card to swipe into the building at any time. The drop box is in the hallway outside the dining hall.
Campus Center — East Lounge, Room 130 (off the Dean of Student’s Office)
Campus Center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
State Quad — Dining Hall
Empire Commons — Commons Building
The Commons Building is open from 8:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, and from noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday.
Husted Café — Hallway
Husted Hall is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You'll need to use your ID card to swipe into the building.
East Campus (Health Sciences Campus)
George Education Center (GEC), School of Public Health — Lobby
GEC is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You'll need to use your ID card to swipe into the building.
The drop boxes will be labeled “Sample Collection Point.” They will be available from noon Sunday to 8 a.m. Thursday.
Saliva samples and individual data will be destroyed when their epidemiological analysis is complete and participants in positive pools have been contacted.
The School of Public Health will study aggregate results that contain no personal data. The University will use SPH’s reports as a guide for decision-making.
If the pooled sample with your saliva tests positive — meaning the virus was detected — you will receive a phone call from an authorized University employee, who will guide you through obtaining a diagnostic test and staying safe.
A positive result means that at least one of the people in your testing pool has the virus. Diagnostic testing will determine whether you have the virus.
To protect participants’ confidentially and to ensure the validity of the program’s results, samples will be pooled randomly. You will not know who is in your testing pool.
Therefore, even if your roommate, coworker or friend is notified their pool tested positive at the same time as you are, you should not assume you were in the same pool.
If the pooled sample with your saliva tests negative — meaning the virus was not detected — you will not receive any notification.
Please remember that you could have been exposed to the virus after submitting your saliva sample, which means a negative result is not a guarantee that you are currently negative.
That’s why participating in pooled surveillance testing is not a substitute for mask wearing, hand washing, physical distancing, staying home when sick and all other safety protocols.
It’s also important that you continue to participate in surveillance testing throughout the semester.
What to do if you miss a testing day
If you accidentally miss a testing day, you can wait until the next time you are on campus that week to collect and submit your saliva sample.
However, please do not collect your saliva sample until the day you are coming to campus.
You can only drop off saliva samples between noon Sunday and 8 a.m. Thursday.
What to do if there is a problem with your kit
If you lose your kit, run out of supplies or are missing supplies, you can simply pick up another kit on campus anytime during the semester. Find a list of pick-up locations in Step 1 above.
Once you have a new kit, please discard your old kit and register your new kit immediately. You may receive two sets of testing dates (one for each kit you registered) but please only test with your current kit when asked and disregard the other emails.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Why is this important?
COVID-19 often presents without any symptoms, particularly among younger individuals. However, people without symptoms can still spread the virus.
Testing people without symptoms will allow the University to identify pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases before cases increase undetected — a health check-up for our community.
The University will use pooled surveillance testing to detect, understand and control the spread of COVID-19 in our campus community. This program is not intended to diagnose individuals who are symptomatic or have previously tested positive for COVID-19.
Together, pooled testing and diagnostic testing form a strong framework to help us keep our campus healthy and safe. Thank you for participating.
Note: If you feel sick, please contact your doctor (Student Health Services for students or your primary care physician for employees). If you have severe symptoms — such as high fever, cough or shortness of breath — please call 911.