Addressing privacy concerns about on-campus COVID-19 employee testing results

The following update was sent by email to faculty and staff on Oct. 8.

Dear Colleagues:

We have heard from many faculty and staff who have questions about how the results of on-campus COVID-19 tests are handled and preserved, and what steps are being taken to protect employee information and privacy.

SUNY Update Medical University is facilitating pool testing on our campus and will handle all results and records in accordance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Upstate notifies our campus doctor of record (Dr. Jack Ordway, director of the Student Health Service) as soon as test results are available – typically, on Tuesday or early Wednesday following each set of Thursday-Friday testing dates.

Test records are maintained in a secure file and will be retained by the Health Service at least until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more here about the Health Center’s privacy practices.

The Health Center will not notify employees or any other campus offices or departments when test results are negative.

In the event of a positive test, the Health Center will notify the employee who tested positive, and will also notify the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion (HRDI) for the purpose of supporting the employee’s absence from work and ensuring proper tracing protocols.

Records of employee positive test results, including notes on communications of positive status from the Health Center and medical documents submitted by employees who have been tested off-campus, are retained by HRDI to support the use of leave or accruals. Those files are kept confidential and separate from the employment file.

The health department in the employee’s county of residence will also be notified of positive test results so that they can conduct contact tracing, in accordance with statewide tracing protocols.

The actual test specimens from our on-campus pool testing will be handled by SUNY Upstate Medical University. Their current practice is to destroy all pool samples and all individual samples that test negative, and to preserve positive tests for possible use in future research, a common practice at academic medical centers. All such positive tests are de-identified and subject to an institutional review board process prior to use.

Those who are tested on our campus may ask Upstate to destroy their test specimens. To request that your test specimen be destroyed, please contact Kathleen Sayles, Laboratory Compliance Officer at SUNY Upstate Medical University, at

We have published additional information about employee testing on this page, which will continue to be updated as new details become available.

Employees may also contact the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion at with questions.

As always, we thank all employees for taking active measures to stop the spread of this virus. Your vigilance has been a significant factor in allowing our community to sustain a safe and productive fall semester thus far.

Tanhena Pacheco Dunn, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion
Stephanie Blaisdell, Vice President for Student Affairs