SUNY Oneonta Experiments With Waste-Water Testing

5-DAY ADVANCE WARNING POSSIBLE

SUNY Oneonta Experiments

With Waste-Water Testing

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Lachlan Squairs

ONEONTA – SUNY Oneonta is looking to get as far ahead of the coronavirus as it can – through waste-water testing.

It is what it sounds like.

“Even asymptomatic people start shedding coronavirus through their feces in the first day of their infection,” said Lachlan Squair, SUNY Oneonta’s chief of facilities & safety.
“The reason we’re doing the waste-water test,” he continued, “is we’re able to see an increase in the virus five days before it can be detected in testing of symptoms.”

The idea of testing waste-water – in a word, sewage – has been surfacing in news reports only in the past few days – “the canary in the coal mine,” a Clemson University administrator called it – so SUNY Oneonta is on the cutting edge.

As far as he knows, Squair said, Oneonta is the first SUNY campus to adopt the technique, which grew out of a collaboration with Cornell, Syracuse University, Upstate Medical in Syracuse, and a company called Quadrant Biosciences, also in Syracuse.

It is one of three tools SUNY Oneonta has adopted to stay ahead of the pandemic threat, along with:

• Pooled testing, where a “pool” of saliva from 20 students is sent to Upstate Medical for testing. If the sample tests positive for COVID-19, the 20 students can then be tested individually. It’s less expensive and more efficient than testing everyone.

• If symptoms appear, students are immediately directed to the campus Health & Wellness Center, that round building on the left as you approach campus on Ravine Parkway. There, students will be tested, then quarantined while awaiting results; if positive, any infected student will be isolated through recovery.

SUNY Oneonta will be testing for 24 hours, twice weekly, at three waste-water outflow points. If a COVID indication surfaces, quarantining and isolating would be initiated
in that one-third of the campus.

Test samples will be sent to Quadrant, Squair said, where “there’s a test available that’s so sensitive it can pick up a very small COVID positive in a 200,000 population.

“This is going to be a very important tool in the control of COVID,” he continued. “We’re part of a group of early adopters of this technology.”


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