5-DAY ADVANCE WARNING POSSIBLE
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – SUNY Oneonta is looking to get as far ahead of the coronavirus as it can – through waste-water testing.
“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.”