ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 14, 2021) – As the University looks forward to welcoming students back to campus in just a few short weeks, the pooled surveillance testing program launched in the fall is prepared to continue its widespread mandatory weekly testing.
All students and employees who are studying, working or visiting any of UAlbany’s campuses — regardless of whether they live on or off campus or if they have been vaccinated — must participate weekly during the spring semester.
Developed by the RNA Institute and the School of Public Health (SPH), the program provides a simple and non-invasive way to test the presence of the virus using a saliva sample. Participants spit into provided test tubes on an assigned date and drop the samples off at designated contactless stations. If a pool tests positive, at least one of the people in that group has the virus. An authorized University official will then contact the person whose sample tested positive with instructions for PCR diagnostic testing, and those in the pool who are negative for COVID-19 will not have to do anything further.
Test kits, which must be registered online and are free for all participants, will be distributed in late January. Students living on-campus will receive their test kits from Residential Life staff while students who live off-campus should pick up their test kit at Waterbury Hall (Alumni Quad) during times specified on the website. Employees can obtain a kit at the Alumni House Driveway during drive-through events.
RNA Institute and SPH experts explain that some people infected with the virus have mild or even no symptoms at all but can infect others unknowingly. Pooled surveillance testing is specifically designed to detect the virus in these asymptomatic individuals, so that they can be isolated away from others who could potentially contract the virus, become very ill and pass it along to others.
“Surveillance testing like this is important because it allows the University to identify the seemingly healthy people who have and can unknowingly spread the virus to others who may not fare as well,” said Kevin Wilcox, COVID-19 Safety Officer and Associate Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management and Compliance. “By identifying cases before more exposure occurs, we’re essentially conducting weekly health check-ups for our community and allowing students and employees to help keep their peers, families and the larger Albany community safe.”
Because the program, which is just one of the health and safety tools the University is employing,is intended to diagnose asymptomatic individuals, anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, has had a positive PCR diagnostic test result within the past 90 days, or was diagnosed as positive for the virus by a physician within the past 90 days, should not participate in pooled testing.
To thank participants, each week one student’s name will be randomly chosen from the pooled surveillance 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.
However, failure to participate in surveillance testing may make you ineligible to attend the University during the spring semester, have access to University services and/or result in serious disciplinary action. Learn more on our Student Expectations & Sanctions page, under "Failure to Comply with Campus Health Protocols."
For more information on the pooled surveillance testing program, visit the University’s COVID-19 website.