Campus begins testing students for COVID-19

Roger Coda

Students proceed through reporting stations in the COVID-19 surveillance testing program that is being conducted throughout the fall semester in the Student Health Center.

Surveillance testing for COVID-19 was launched during the first week of classes at Fredonia, with about 100 students participating in the innovative pooled surveillance approach that uses saliva samples, collected in small batches to be run as one test, so results can be delivered back to campus within just a few days.

Randomly selected students reported to the Student Health Center in LoGrasso Hall on Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, for the test that was developed and validated by SUNY Upstate Medical University’s laboratory and Quadrant Biosciences and recently approved by the New York State Department of Health.

“Our goal is to keep everyone safe here on campus. Surveillance testing is a way of validating that all we are doing with social distancing and wearing masks is working to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Student Health Center Director Deborah Dibble.

Students are initially surveyed, which involves having their temperature taken and being asked whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or been in contact with anyone who has the coronavirus within the last 14 days or traveled outside of New York state. Students administer the saliva test themselves, swabbing their mouth for 10 to 15 seconds.

Twelve student saliva samples are combined into one batch that’s sent to SUNY Update Medical University for analysis. A negative test result for the pooled sample means everyone in that group is presumed not to have COVID-19, while a positive test triggers a separate follow-up PCR test of each student in that collection to identify those afflicted with the coronavirus.

Surveillance testing is also meant to catch a case early that might be asymptomatic and could potentially spread unknowingly to others, Ms. Dibble explained. This student testing is part of the campus’ plans to re-open for the fall semester, she said.

“It’s a fast process, takes about five minutes, from start to finish, and we should know the results of the test within 24 to 48 hours,” Dibble said. Pooling individual samples into one batch allows for a larger number of people to be tested and the results to be known in a shorter amount of time.

Bi-weekly testing of students living on campus as well as those residing off-campus will continue throughout the fall semester, Dibble noted. Health center staff involved in the sample collection include registered nurses Tim Borizilleri and Ashley Lancaster, nurse practitioner Emily Maytum, Executive Director of Student Wellness and Support Tracy Stenger and Dibble.

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