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Governor Cuomo announces three new testing initiatives

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Governor Cuomo announced a number of new coronavirus testing initiatives on Friday. A statewide wastewater detection pilot, mobile testing for farmworkers and pooled surveillance testing will all be implemented to help detect and control the virus across the state.

The wastewater detection pilot program will cost $500,000 and expand the initial sampling program taking place in Onondaga County. Wastewater sample collection will also begin in Albany, Newburgh and Buffalo.

Officials hope wastewater sampling can be used to set up an early indicator system which will forecast virus spread in communities. Scientists have found Covid-19’s genetic material in the feces of up to 40 percent of infected individuals, even those who are asymptomatic.

Wastewater sampling has previously been used to help track and eradicate the polio virus.

Up to 12 locations will be identified within each community and sampled three times per week over a four-week period to determine trends in the levels of coronavirus in each area The relationship between wastewater virus data and COVID-19 cases within the corresponding area will then be analyzed. The pilot study will also allow an in-depth daily sampling program at 10 locations of high concern or special interest.

“Throughout the State’s response to COVID-19, Governor Cuomo has urged New Yorkers and encouraged the nation to let science determine the safest path forward.

This innovative initiative has the potential to provide valuable data and clues that will strengthen the State’s ongoing response. In the absence of a national strategy to protect our communities from this virus, millions of Americans have followed New York’s lead because our experts are guided by science and this pilot will serve to benefit New Yorkers and potentially the nation.” 

Basil Seggos
DEC Commissioner

The State Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets will deploy mobile testing teams to counties that have the highest influx of seasonal workers.

Due to the higher number of workers in close proximity on farms and production facilities, along with congregate housing facilities that some farms provide for workers, clusters of cases have emerged on farms across the state.

Increased testing coupled with access to isolation housing for farm workers who test positive, will be provided in an attempt to stop these rural clusters forming.

Pooled surveillance testing will also be provided by the State University of New York. Saliva samples, pooled in batches as small as 10 and as large as 25 will be used to test groups of people.

A negative test means that all 10-25 people in the group are presumed at the time to be coronavirus-free. A positive test for the pool would mean every person in that group would need to be individually tested by a PCR test.

Individuals can also administer the tests themselves, swabbing their mouths for 10 or 15 seconds each, and provide the saliva samples to medical personnel.

It is hoped this faster, cheaper, method of testing will benefit institutions like universities, who will need to conduct regular surveillance testing to stop the virus spreading on campus.

“In the coming weeks, SUNY will reopen higher education across the state with a portion of its 415,000 students and 90,000 employees returning on our 64 campuses.

Thanks to SUNY Upstate Medical’s research team, and Quadrant Biosciences and the team at SUNY System and SUNY Research Foundation, our testing capabilities are significantly expanded.

It will be faster and more cost-effective for the surveillance testing we need as we start to resume on-campus living. We thank the Governor for his leadership and the New York Department of Health for approving this testing.”

Robert Megna
SUNY Officer in Charge

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