COBLESKILL — The state University of New York at Cobleskill has launched a pooled saliva testing program for everyone on campus after 12 students failed to comply with campus COVID-19 safety requirements, SUNY officials said on Tuesday.
The dozen students were suspended by college President Marion Terenzio for hosting and attending parties over the weekend that didn’t comply with state guidance about avoiding social gatherings.
The news comes just days after SUNY-Oneonta — just 35 miles away — closed its campus for two weeks after more than 100 students tested positive for COVID-19. As of Tuesday, that number had grown to more than 250 students.
SUNY-Cobleskill is now in its third week of on-campus instruction, with two students having tested positive, and those cases immediately addressed. The college will be using the pooled surveillance testing and new saliva diagnostic testing announced for the SUNY system earlier Tuesday by Chancellor James Malatras, who also visited the Cobleskill campus on Tuesday.
Using the pooled method, multiple saliva samples are tested at once, and if any batch tests positive for the novel coronavirus, people in the sample group can then be tested individually. SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse will oversee the testing.
“President Terenzio and the entire SUNY Cobleskill community have done a phenomenal job to keep each other safe with a comprehensive plan that is being smartly implemented,” Malatras said. “But we can’t go backwards. I fully support President Terenzio’s decision to suspend these 12 students.”
Suspensions are one of the primary tools SUNY is using to punish student misbehavior. Last week, the president of SUNY Plattsburgh suspended 43 students for violating COVID-19 restrictions, and the University at Albany has suspended a handful.
“The vast majority of SUNY Cobleskill’s on-campus students are complying with college safety protocols designed to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Terenzio said in a statement. “We must take a strong stand on the risky behavior that violates our code of conduct and jeopardizes students who want to continue their education on campus.”
If additional positive cases are detected through the testing, students with coronavirus cases will be quarantined and the school will work with the Schoharie County Department of Health on contact tracing.
About 2,500 students are enrolled at the Cobleskill college, which has a focus on agriculture and technology but offers a wide variety of degree programs.