State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Jim Malatras announced that the SUNY system will be expanding its testing protocol among campuses at a press conference on Stony Brook University’s campus on Thursday, Sep. 24.
Malatras said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new COVID-19 saliva swab test that allows for up to 25 people to be screened at a time, with relatively quick results ranging from 24 to 48 hours.
The saliva test was granted approval to be used by SUNY Upstate for pool testing purposes within the SUNY student body in August. The saliva test has increased SUNY’s testing capacity to 120,000 tests per week. With the emergency-use authorization from the FDA, the swab test can now be used nationally. Previously, SUNY primarily used nasal swab tests.
“I’m happy that for SUNY, the FDA has just approved it to be used nationwide,” Malatras said. “We can now bring the power of SUNY leverage to the institutions and the ingenuity that we have going on here everyday to scale.”
Malatras praised how Stony Brook has handled the pandemic, especially the university’s requirements for students to test negative for COVID-19 before the semester started and regularly testing the campus population. According to the COVID-19 dashboard, there have been about 24 positive student cases on campus since the start of the semester.
“I wanted to visit Stony Brook especially because I want to highlight shining examples of campuses that are doing it well,” Malatras said. “And that’s important to build confidence and to demonstrate that this can be done.”
Malatras moved on to speak about transparency, focusing on COVID-19 dashboards. Researchers from Yale and Harvard universities have been issuing grades based upon whether colleges have COVID-19 information dashboards or not, how frequently they report data and how detailed their information may be.
“We got a B+, but we’re working on it,” he said. “We’re gonna follow Stony Brook’s lead and make sure that our [SUNY] dashboard gets an A the next time around.”
Lawrence Zararese, Interim Chief of Police at Stony Brook University, said the dashboard is a way to visually display how the university is doing.
“The dashboard really tells our story and in this case so far, it’s a story of effectiveness, plans that worked out and the campus taking it seriously,” he said in an interview with The Statesman.
Malatras also praised how students and faculty at Stony Brook University have complied with guidelines, as well as the research work students and faculty have done since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, including 17 COVID-related research projects. He was also pleased with the initial response of the Stony Brook University hospital.
“I would put my money on Stony Brook every time, if we have a crisis, about how to deal with the crisis,” Malatras said. “We have the intellectual capacity, the student body is stepping up in a big way, the faculty is second to none and the administration did it the right way.”