Dear Students, Families, Faculty and Staff: You have likely noticed the very positive data and trends reported on the Syracuse University COVID dashboard over the past several weeks. I call your attention to a few important data points: The number…
6 Things to Know About the Upgraded COVID-19 Stadium Testing Center
The University conducted more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests in the fall semester. In the spring semester, the University’s Public Health Team expects to double, or even triple, that number.
How will they do that? The team is expanding and optimizing the Stadium Testing Center to accommodate increased testing with faster results and improve upon the in-house testing model developed in the fall.
“Testing the campus community is one of the cornerstones of our public health strategy, and while the fall semester provided us with tremendous insight and bench strength in this area, we also identified some necessary process improvements,” says Adam Hepburn, executive director of operations, strategic initiatives and innovation. “With more rigorous testing requirements for students, faculty and staff in the spring, we anticipated a need for increased testing and faster processing and adjusted our strategy accordingly.”
Here are six things to know about the new operation.
1. New Testing Method Increases Efficiency, Ensures Privacy
The testing method at the stadium has been upgraded from the swab collection kits used in the fall to a new method called SalivaDirect, developed by the Yale School of Public Health and in use by many of Syracuse’s peer institutions.
The new testing method offers the primary benefit of faster test results, allowing the Public Health Team to process more samples in a day and follow up more quickly with anyone who has tested positive. This change also achieves cost savings for the University, as the test is less expensive to administer.
Instead of swabbing the inside of their mouth, individuals being tested will receive a sterile conical tube that they can deposit saliva directly into. Thirty privacy booths erected in the stadium help to provide additional privacy for the SalivaDirect method, and new directional and instructional signage was installed to help traffic move more efficiently through the testing center.
As the space was reimagined, it was also expanded to take up more of the stadium’s footprint, ensuring plenty of physical distance among those waiting for a test.
Check out a brief video overview of the testing process to learn more.
2. Samples Are Now Evaluated In-House
During the fall semester, pooled saliva swab tests were sent to a lab at Upstate Medical University for processing and evaluation. Now, samples from the testing center are heated for about 30 minutes to a temperature that makes them safe for transport, and then delivered to a new laboratory in the Center for Science and Technology. There, individual samples are pooled together in batches of 12.
The pooled samples are then transported to the Life Sciences Complex and tested via a polymerase chain reaction to detect the presence or absence of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen in a laboratory under the direction of Ramesh Raina, interim vice president for research.
“By building a fully autonomous on-campus testing laboratory, we can turn test results around more quickly. This helps us get people into isolation and begin the contact tracing process faster when the virus is identified on our campus,” says Hepburn.
The University will continue to partner with Upstate for limited testing support on an as-needed basis.
3. Please, Don’t Visit the Testing Center if You Have Symptoms!
The testing center is reserved for routine testing of asymptomatic individuals and under no circumstances should you visit the stadium if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been directed to quarantine by a public health official due to close contact.
If not feeling well, students should call the Barnes Center at 315.443.8000 and faculty/staff (and their dependents) should contact their doctor.
4. Hours Expand, but Protocols Remain the Same
As of Feb. 8, the testing center will operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday to accommodate increased testing during the spring semester.
Testing will also be available on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Many other elements of testing remain the same: enter the stadium through Gate N, no appointments are required, bring your Syracuse University I.D. and take care not to eat, drink anything (including water), brush your teeth or use mouthwash, chew gum or use any tobacco products in the 30 minutes prior to testing.
5. Stadium Testing Center: By the Numbers
The numbers reveal that the testing center has ramped up across the board—increasing the number of tests the Public Health Team anticipates completing in the spring semester, hiring additional staff, more space to conduct testing and getting students, faculty and staff results faster than before.
6. Faculty and Staff Dependents Can Now Access Stadium Testing Center
Earlier this year, the University announced that COVID-19 surveillance testing eligibility was expanded to include family members and loved ones of faculty and staff. Defined as anyone residing in the same household as a University employee, these dependents are eligible to be tested once every 14 days to help further safeguard the health of our community and provide a valuable testing resource.
Important to note, family members and loved ones must be accompanied by the faculty or staff member with whom they reside when visiting the Stadium Testing Center. Dependents should not visit the stadium if they are experiencing COVID-like symptoms or have been instructed to quarantine.