SUNY to expand testing services to Albany International Airport

Albany International Airport CEO Philip Calderone is shown speaking at a press conference last month. (Erica Miller/Staff Photographer)

Albany International Airport CEO Philip Calderone is shown speaking at a press conference last month. (Erica Miller/Staff Photographer)

Albany International Airport will soon offer regular COVID-19 testing to its employees and travelers thanks to a new partnership with the State University of New York.

The airport will use a saliva test developed at SUNY Upstate Medical Center to monitor their employees and offer travelers an option to purchase a test to take at the airport when they arrive at their destination. Travelers who can demonstrate a negative test result have fewer quarantine requirements than travelers without test results, under the state’s travel guidelines.

“This is an essential step to ensuring the health and safety of our workforce,” Albany Airport CEO Philip Calderone said during a press conference announcing the new testing program Sunday with SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras.

Calderone noted the essential nature of airport staff, who work shifts all times of the day and facilitate critical military and medical transport activities.

Free voluntary testing of airport employees will begin Friday, with plans to roll out a paid option for travelers before the end of the month, when holiday travel is likely to pick up again despite public health warnings cautioning against travel. Travelers will be able to pay $30 to conduct the test at the airport or $60 for a take-home test kit.

With SUNY students at home until Feb. 1 at the earliest, SUNY has spare testing capacity after administering well over 500,000 tests during the school year so far, including a test for every student on SUNY campuses prior to leaving school for Thanksgiving and the winter break. The public college system will have to ramp its student testing back into high gear in February as it aims to test students as they return to campus.

“We are gearing up to prepare for that, even as we take on others in the meantime,” said SUNY Upstate Medical President Mantosh Dewan, noting the Upstate-developed saliva test ranks as the fifth-most-accurate COVID-19 test according to the FDA.

Meanwhile, the uptick in COVID-19 cases continued through the weekend, with Albany County reporting 143 new cases on Sunday, including three new hospitalizations.

Statewide there were over 9,700 new COVID-19 cases discovered through testing and 56 deaths on Saturday, according to the latest data released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday. The state’s test positivity rate on Saturday reached 4.7 percent – 4.24 percent excluding the hardest-hit micro-clusters in the state.

“We continue to take strong action and to respond to outbreaks and to stop the spread,” Cuomo said in a message posted to social media Sunday, his 63rd birthday. “Mask up.”

The test positivity rate also topped 4 percent in the Capital Region, where the testing rates have remained above 4 percent in Albany and Schenectady for over 10 days. County leaders in both Schenectady and Albany are awaiting official state guidance as they stand on the cusp of new restrictions and precautions brought on by the sustained infection levels.

“We’re waiting for guidance,” Schenectady County manager Rory Fluman said during a joint press conference with county leaders from Albany and Rensselaer on Saturday. “What comes comes, and we are ready.”

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