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A look at how SUNY Plattsburgh’s COVID-19 pool testing works

Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 5:40 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - To date, there have been more than 71,000 COVID-19 tests that have been administered at SUNY universities in New York. That includes more than 1,000 SUNY Plattsburgh students. Our Kelly O’Brien went to campus to see how the testing works.

Every hour, more than 100 SUNY Plattsburgh students go to the former dining hall to get their COVID-19 pool testing done. The whole process only takes about five minutes and it’s proven to be successful.

“It’s a pretty seamless process,” said Francisco Cruz, a junior at SUNY Plattsburgh.

Cruz says he’s grateful the school offers free COVID-19 testing.

“Making sure we are keeping everybody in Plattsburgh safe and making sure that everybody is on the right side of COVID,” he said.

The testing started two weeks ago on campus. Every Wednesday in the old dining hall, more than 500 students from high-risk areas, like dorms and athletics, get the tests.

Staffers and off-campus students will be tested also.

Dr. Kathleen Camelo, the director of the Student Health Counseling Center, runs the testing.

“It’s quick, it’s efficient, students don’t mind because it’s just a buckle swab, just the inside of their cheek,” Camelo said.

The pool testing is exclusive to the SUNY school system. It was put together by SUNY Upstate Medical, which also runs the diagnostics for every test at all 64 schools.

It works like this:

Every student swabs their mouth for 15 seconds. The swab collects saliva into a small tube and that tube is dumped into a larger vessel that 12 students' saliva will share.

If that pooled vessel comes back as a positive result, then all 12 students' swabs are retested to find out who has the positive case.

So far there have been zero positive cases

“We know that the test is good because it’s the same test that Oneonta has been using and they have had a number of cases, as we all know,” Camelo said.

SUNY says the secret to its success of no COVID cases on campus lies with the students.

“They are doing what we have designed and they are being cooperative and they understand that this is what they need to do to stay in class,” Camelo said.

The test turnaround is 24-48 hours, so the school will have the results from Wednesday on Friday.

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