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SUNY Potsdam Begins Comprehensive COVID-19 Surveillance Testing of Students

September 15, 2020

SUNY Potsdam Begins Regular Surveillance of On-Campus & Local Students Utilizing New Pooled Saliva Testing Offered Through Upstate Medical University

As part of its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the community, SUNY Potsdam has launched a comprehensive surveillance testing program for residential and local students, starting today.

The College is partnering with Upstate Medical University in Syracuse to provide ongoing pooled saliva testing to all residential students and those living within 15 miles of campus. This week, approximately 2,000 on-campus and local students will complete mandatory testing.

“In order to maintain the low numbers of cases that we have seen here at SUNY Potsdam and in the North Country region more broadly, we have to remain vigilant. Utilizing the game-changing pooled saliva testing system pioneered by our SUNY colleagues at Upstate Medical, Potsdam is prepared to stop the spread by regularly testing all of our on-campus and local students. We will continue to follow the science and use real-time data to protect our campus and our community,” said President Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg.

Going forward, SUNY Potsdam will test half of the local student body each week—so that each individual student will complete surveillance testing every other week. This is in addition to the tests that Student Health Services conducts for any student who reports that they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Students can administer the tests themselves, using saliva swabs. Pooled testing allows for 10 to 25 people to be screened in one test. If a “pool” tests positive, Upstate can immediately test the individual samples in that pool to determine who is positive and needs to isolate.

For this week’s testing, SUNY Potsdam is grouping students into “pools” based on those who already live with or in close proximity to each other—with the goal of making quarantine easier and simplifying the second round of testing. Any student who does not comply with the mandatory surveillance tests will be asked to return home and study virtually, in order to protect the health of the campus community.

In addition, Student Health Services is offering free influenza vaccine clinics alongside the COVID-19 testing being offered in the Maxcy Hall Athletic Complex this week. Kinney Drugs has likewise partnered to offer flu vaccine clinics for SUNY Potsdam faculty and staff on campus this week as well, which will be billed to employees’ insurance carriers. It is especially important to get seasonal flu shots this year, in order to reduce the impact on the healthcare system and to protect the campus community.

SUNY Potsdam tested all returning and local students before the start of the semester, and students were required to self-quarantine both prior to their arrival and until they received negative test results. As reported on SUNY Potsdam’s online dashboard, since Aug. 11, the College has completed more than 2,000 tests of its students, with only three positive results so far. For those three cases, each of the affected individuals has completed their isolation periods and has been cleared by the Department of Health.

SUNY Potsdam students living on campus and locally are expected to comply with the Be Ethical And Responsible (BEAR) COVID-19 Pledge to protect themselves and others. The campus has worked extensively with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department to develop its plan, and has also engaged with local leaders and community partners to assist in sharing the importance of public health measures such as wearing face coverings in all public spaces and not violating social distancing.

To learn more about SUNY Potsdam’s response to COVID-19, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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