Employee COVID-19 testing: Your questions, answered (Updated Oct. 6)

Mandatory COVID-19 testing of SUNY New Paltz employees began on Oct. 1 and will continue through the fall 2020 semester.

At the time of this writing, the UUP, CSEA, PEF and PBANYS bargaining units have signed agreements with SUNY on mandatory employee testing. The College has additionally encouraged M/C employees (who are not represented by a bargaining unit) to opt-in to voluntary testing this semester.

We have heard questions from members of our community, including local bargaining unit leadership, about how the process of employee testing will work on our campus.

The below questions and answers are designed to help make this process as clear and transparent as possible for faculty and staff.

If you have additional questions about employee COVID-19 testing that are not answered here, please feel free to get in touch at HRDI@newpaltz.edu.

What type of testing will be used for SUNY New Paltz employees?

Employees will be tested using pooled sample techniques that are already in use with New Paltz students. Pool testing is facilitated by SUNY Upstate Medical University and is conducted using a self-administered saliva swab. See a walkthrough of the process in this video:

How will samples for testing be constructed regarding pool size and cohorts?

Testing will be conducted in pools of generally about 10 samples or fewer. Because employee and student pool testing will take place simultaneously, employee and student samples will not be separated.

How is the College determining which employees must be tested?

Per the UUP, CSEA, PEF and PBANYS agreements on employee testing, employees are only required to be tested if they are required to be on campus for some or all of their work obligation during the fall semester.

SUNY New Paltz employees in these bargaining units (and any others that agree to a mandatory testing arrangement in the future) will receive a notification to be tested if they have had a regular presence on campus since Monday, Sept. 21.

Employees who receive a mandatory testing notification because they have briefly been on campus this semester, but are not required to be on campus for their work obligation, may qualify for a mandatory testing waiver. Please contact the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion at HRDI@newpaltz.edu if you believe this describes your situation.

Who will collect the test samples from employees?

As stated above, testing is conducted using a self-administered saliva swab. Employees will collect their own sample as shown in the video above.

Completed, sealed samples will then be collected by trained medical professionals for transport to SUNY Upstate Medical University testing facilities.

Will employees be scheduled for testing on specific dates?

Employee testing will be offered on specific dates of the fall semester, but employees will be able to walk-in for testing at any time during the testing hours of operation.

For example: UUP-employee testing is being offered on Oct. 1, Oct. 2, Oct. 8 and Oct. 9. Individual employees will not be scheduled for testing at specific times on those dates; rather, anyone who is required to be tested in October is expected to appear for walk-in testing on any one of those dates, according to their choice and schedule.

The full employee testing schedule can be viewed via this link.

Please be sure to create your account with SUNY Upstate Medical University in advance prior to appearing for testing. See below for instructions.

How and when will employees be notified when they must be tested?

Employees who are required to be tested will receive email and text message reminders about testing on the Monday prior to each set of Thursday-Friday testing days.

I got a notification about mandatory pool testing, but I never come to campus. Do I still need to get tested?

Students and employees who do not come to campus during the fall 2020 semester do not need to be tested.

In rare cases, some students and employees who do not come to campus may receive a notification about mandatory pool testing.

If you received such a notification, but do not come to campus and believe you are not required to be tested, you can contact us to confirm your testing status.

Students should contact the Health Center at healthservice@newpaltz.edu to confirm their testing status.

Employees should contact the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion at HRDI@newpaltz.edu to confirm their testing status.

What do I have to do before I get pool tested?

Please create an account at http://register.suny-covid.com/ prior to appearing for testing. Be prepared to provide insurance information.

You will need to bring your New Paltz ID to the testing site.

Please also be sure to bring your mobile device with you to be tested, as you will need to use it to scan the code and link your test to your account.

Also, to ensure accurate results, you must not eat, drink, smoke or vape within 30 minutes prior to your test, and must not brush teeth or use mouthwash within three hours prior to your test.

When I create my pool testing account, it asks me if I have a test kit. I don’t have a test kit – what should I do next?

Students and employees who create a pool testing account with SUNY Upstate Medical University will eventually be asked “Do you have a test kit?”

When you get to this point of the account-creation process, you’re ready to go get tested.

The remainder of the registration process, including receiving and scanning your test kit, can be completed at the testing site when you come to be tested.

Please be sure to bring your mobile device with you to be tested, as you will need to use it to scan the code and link your test to your account.

Where on campus will employee COVID-19 testing take place? 

Employee testing will take place in the Awosting Hall Basement Lounge, where student testing is already ongoing.

Please enter via the building’s west entrance, nearest the pond, and wear a face mask when entering and while waiting to be tested.

Please also note that employees who arrive for testing will not come in contact with students who are quarantined in Awosting Hall, as they are restricted to their individual rooms and have their own bathroom.

Will there be a specific window of time that employees will report during for COVID testing?

Yes, testing will be offered on Thursdays and Fridays through the end of the fall semester (and on Monday, Nov. 23, during the week of Thanksgiving).

Employee testing dates and times will be posted at this link.

Testing is generally offered during regular daytime working hours, though hours are subject to change slightly from week to week depending on the availability of our testing partners at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

Employees are welcome to walk in for testing at any time during the hours of operation.

Will COVID-19 testing of employees occur at the same time and location as testing of students?

Yes. SUNY Upstate Medical University will be providing pool testing on the New Paltz campus two days per week (Thursdays and Fridays), and both students and employees who are required to be testing via this technique will be tested on these days.

How many people can be accommodated during testing times?

Pool testing is a relatively fast and efficient process. We estimate that roughly 50 people can be tested per hour at our on-campus facility.

At present, this allows the College to fulfill its obligation to test all students and employees who are required to be tested by recently approved SUNY/bargaining unit agreements.

How many times a semester will employees be tested?

Each of the UUP, CSEA, PEF and PBANYS agreements with SUNY on employee testing state that employees should be tested at the same frequency as student testing.

Students are currently required to be tested at least twice during the fall 2020 semester; so, employees who are part of our on-campus community and subject to these mandatory testing agreements will also be required to be tested twice during the fall 2020 semester.

What should an employee do if they cannot make their identified testing time?

As outlined above, there will be multiple days and times of day when employees will be able to get tested.

Any employee who is unable to appear for testing on these days and times will need to arrange testing at an off-campus facility.

Please see below for more information about satisfying the mandatory testing requirement via off-campus testing.

Can employees get tested more than required if they want to?

The College encourages all members of our community to be tested as often as they like.

However, our ability to provide free, opt-in, on-campus testing will depend on our ability to first meet the demands of student and employee testing mandates (currently between 600-800 tests administered per week).

According to our current testing schedule, voluntary, opt-in COVID-19 testing will begin on Oct. 22.

Will there be a testing alternative for employees who do not want to be tested on/by the campus?

Yes. Employees who do not want to participate in campus-based pool testing may elect to be tested off campus by their health care provider, pharmacy or other COVID-19 testing facility.

Those who choose this approach will be required to submit testing results to the Benefits office, either as a scanned attachment or a hard copy (which can be left in the secure lock box outside of the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion, HAB 603).

Off-campus testing must be conducted within two weeks prior to their indicated testing dates in order to meet the requirement.

As an example, for employees represented by UUP, that means the first test must be conducted between Sept. 17 and Oct. 9 to satisfy the October testing requirement, as the dates of on-campus testing for UUP employees are Oct. 1-2 and Oct. 8-9.

How will employees’ COVID-19 test results be handled and preserved?

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

Who at SUNY New Paltz will be notified of pool test results?

Pool test results from SUNY Upstate Medical University are typically coming in on Tuesday evenings. We anticipate results no later than Wednesday but will report them as soon as they come in.

Only those who test positive will be contacted. If you test positive, you will receive a phone call and follow up email and text message if you don’t answer.

An employee’s positive test results will be shared with the Student Health Service and will also be provided to the Office of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion for the purpose of supporting their absence from work and ensuring proper tracing protocols. Contact tracing will be done by the county in which the employee resides.

The College will follow the same communication protocols with employees who test positive as it does with students who test positive: The campus community will be notified of a positive case, but any individual who tests positive will never be identified.

Those who test negative will not receive automatic notification of their results. If you want to confirm your negative result, you can email the Student Health Service at healthservice@newpaltz.edu. Please wait until the Wednesday after your test to send the email, to ensure test results are available when we receive your request.

Will I have to quarantine if someone in my pool tests positive?

Possibly, but for 24 hours or less.

Pool testing combines samples from 10 people at random. If the pool tests positive, that means one or more individuals in the pool are infected with COVID-19. All 10 individual samples within a positive pool are immediately retested to determine which individual(s) are positive.

There have been cases when this secondary test is not conducted until the next day, due to high testing volume at SUNY Upstate Medical University, which means that everyone in the pool must quarantine until individual results are known.

To minimize the impact of having to quarantine an entire pool, we asked Upstate to reduce our pool size from 12 to 10, which has been approved. Pools are also now sorted into employee or student samples only.

Should residential students need to quarantine while we wait for individual results, they will do so in their own room rather than being moved into Awosting Hall. No contact tracing will be done until individual results are confirmed.

Only individuals who have tested positive will need to isolate for 10 days to protect others from contracting COVID-19.