College will institute mandatory on-campus pool testing effective Sept. 21

SUNY New Paltz is preparing to double on-campus COVID-19 testing capacity by adding mandatory pool testing, effective Sept. 21, to the mandatory individual testing of students that is already taking place.

Pool testing is an FDA-approved technique in which multiple samples are combined into a single “pool” or batch and tested all at once. This sample pooling, which will be conducted at New Paltz through a partnership with SUNY Upstate Medical University, allows more people to be tested quickly using fewer testing resources.

Pool testing determines if the combined sample of a group (usually about 12 people) is positive or negative for COVID-19. If a pooled sample tests negative, then all individuals within that pool can be presumed negative.

The pool testing conducted by SUNY Upstate will include a second individual test for any positive pool, known as a reflex test, to determine which individual(s) within the pool has COVID-19. This makes pool testing a good fit for our community. This expansion of mandatory testing allows the College to be more agile and more responsive in protecting the health of all members of our community. A higher volume of testing allows for earlier detection of positive cases, which in turn increases our ability to prevent further spread.

This testing strategy is most efficient in areas with low prevalence of the disease, where most test results are expected to be negative. This makes pool testing appropriate for SUNY New Paltz’s campus community, where roughly 99% of on-campus COVID-19 test results have been negative since the beginning of the fall 2020 semester.

More information about how pool testing works can be found below.

Pool testing at SUNY New Paltz will be mandatory for all students in our on-campus population (defined as students who live on campus and those who commute for in-person classes).

A schedule outlining expectations and instructions for mandatory pool testing will be shared with students soon.

Pool testing will not replace the mandatory, individual diagnostic testing currently taking place on campus via Enzo Labs. Rather, it will augment our existing surveillance testing.

The College will dramatically increase its current on-campus testing capacity by instituting pool testing. The new schedule means that approximately 20% of our on-campus student population – about 750 students – will be tested each week via either individual or pool testing (compared to our current capacity of about 10%), once pool testing goes into effect.

All students in our on-campus population will now be required to get tested at least twice during our 13 weeks of mandated testing (Aug. 31 – Nov. 25). Students who wish to be tested more than twice may opt into voluntary testing (either individual or pool testing) using the scheduler on the Student Health Service’s webpage.

How does pool testing work?

Pool testing relies on the same polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology as individual diagnostic tests, but by pooling multiple samples it allows many people to be tested at once, using a single test. This makes it possible to test more people using fewer testing supplies, and in many cases also allows patients to receive their results more quickly.

Further reading about COVID-19 pool testing:

We thank all students and community members for their perseverance during an unprecedented time on our campus, and as always, for adopting a “We, not Me” attitude this semester.