UAlbany and SEFCU team up to help keep community safe with weekly employee testing

UAlbany and SEFCU team up to help keep community safe with weekly employee testing

RNA Institute scientist testing a saliva sample for COVID-19

 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec 22, 2020) – Every week, more than 325 SEFCU employees receive COVID-19 testing as part of a new partnership between the credit union and the University at Albany.

To help keep their employees and members safe, frontline SEFCU employees who are not displaying COVID-19 symptoms are now able to participate in UAlbany’s pooled surveillance testing program which provides a simple and non-invasive way to test the presence of the virus using a saliva sample.

The testing program was developed in the summer by UAlbany’s RNA Institute and the School of Public Health and was inspired by similar methods from Yale University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, according to RNA Institute Director Andrew Berglund. Students and employees who spend time on any of the University’s three campuses are tested weekly, and recently UAlbany expanded its testing to include SEFCU, a longtime partner of UAlbany.

“Since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, SEFCU has remained steadfast in its commitment to employee and member safety as we work hard to deliver essential banking services and help our neighbors in need,” said SEFCU President and CEO Michael Castellana ’84 ’92. “Our ability to maintain a healthy working environment and save lives was further enhanced when we became the very first company to engage UAlbany’s RNA Institute to provide weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Testing to the vast majority of our on-site workforce. These screening kits provide a simple, speedy, and incredibly accurate way to monitor the presence of COVID-19 across our organization. With results coming 24-hours after the tests are delivered, SEFCU is able to further ensure the health and safety of our essential workers and anyone who visits one of our locations,” continued Castellana, who serves UAlbany as Chair of the University Council and as a member of the University Foundation Board. 

To supply samples, participants spit into provided test tubes on an assigned date. The samples are then delivered to the RNA Institute where scientists pool multiple samples together and perform laboratory testing to detect the genetic material, or RNA, of the virus. If a pool comes back as presumed positive, the individual presumed positive sample is identified. The person receives a personal follow-up and is asked to isolate and seek official diagnostic testing. UAlbany’s saliva-based surveillance test has a false positive rate of less than 0.3 percent.

According to UAlbany researchers, some people infected with the virus have mild or even no symptoms at all – but can infect others unknowingly. The program is specifically designed to detect the virus in these asymptomatic individuals, so that they can be isolated away from others to whom they might transmit the virus, potentially causing them to become very ill.

“Normally we think of testing for an infection as something to do when you’re feeling sick so you can get the care you need,” said Eli Rosenberg, an associate professor in the School of Public Health who, along with Tomoko Udo, worked with the RNA Institute to develop the program for UAlbany students and employees. “That’s diagnostic testing, which is focused on protecting your health. Pooled surveillance testing is different because it is designed to find the seemingly healthy people who have and can spread the virus, which protects the health of others.”

“As we prepared to launch our pooled surveillance testing program in the summer, SEFCU employees volunteered to assemble thousands of test kits for UAlbany students and employees,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “SEFCU is an extraordinary partner, and we are very pleased to help them offer surveillance testing—a powerful demonstration of their commitment to their employees and to the community.”

This testing program has been instrumental in helping SEFCU maintaining its strategic approach to protecting our staff and members while delivering essential banking services to those in need.

“To say that 2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges would of course be an understatement. What I find great hope in, is that it has also been a year characterized by new ideas, innovation, and an unwavering desire to be part of the solution. Our new weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Testing program is a perfect example and could not have come at a better time,” said SEFCU Senior Vice President of Member Experience, Dan Rounds. “Offering our front-line staff peace of mind and additional safety during these times of uncertainty has been a true game changer. Programs like this partnership with the University of Albany enable our team members to deliver essential financial services to our members safely and effectively.” 

More information about UAlbany’s testing program can be found on the University’s COVID-19 website.