Saliva Tests Launching at Albany Airport for Workers, Travelers this Month

Dec. 7, 2020
Albany International Airport and State University of New York officials held a press conference Sunday morning announcing the airport will be the first in New York to offer the diagnostic saliva test invented by SUNY researchers.

Dec. 6—COLONIE — Saliva tests for COVID-19 will be made available for Albany airport workers and travelers this month.

Albany International Airport and State University of New York officials held a press conference Sunday morning announcing the airport will be the first in New York to offer the diagnostic saliva test invented by SUNY researchers. The test, which takes about 48 hours to render results, will be made available for airport employees on Dec. 11 — pending airport board approval — and for travelers by the end of the month, officials said.

"This is an essential step to ensure the health and safety of our airport workforce and the traveling public," said Philip Calderone, CEO of the airport.

The testing kits will be made available for travelers to complete at the airports before or after their flights. Arriving travelers will also be able to take a testing kit home with them, test themselves after day four of their flight and mail it to SUNY Upstate Medical in Syracuse.

While the test will be free for employees, it will cost travelers $30, and an extra $30 if they decide to mail in the kit — which SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said is cheaper than a typical $125 charge for COVID-19 tests done outside of the free state testing offered or those covered by insurance.

The partnership between SUNY and the airport came once students left campuses. Campuses were frequently administering the saliva tests for students, faculty and staff — but campus shutdowns last month freed up resources to be shared with the airport, Malatras said.

The availability of the saliva tests will not prevent people who have COVID-19 from traveling, as the results come back after 48 hours, but rather provide a more convenient way for people to travel with COVID-19 and quarantine restrictions.

"This is an opportunity for travelers to have a test that's easy and quick and accurate, but it in no way is it meant to encourage people to travel more," Calderone said.

With its relatively quick and nearly 100 percent accurate test results, officials said the widespread availability of the saliva test will help manage the COVID-19 crisis in real time.

"We will pick up people on their first and second and third day of the infection rather than day five," said SUNY Upstate Medical President Mantosh Dewan.

The saliva testing method combines multiple samples into a single "pooled" sample, which is tested for COVID-19. If the entire pooled sample tests negative, all 10 to 25 people whose individual samples are included in it are presumed to be COVID-free. Prior to DOH and FDA approval, if a pooled sample tested positive, each individual had to be retested. Now, because of this innovation, if the pooled sample tests positive, each sample within the pool is quickly tested individually to pinpoint exact positive cases without the need to collect a new sample. This provides the ability to rapidly screen more than 15,000 samples a day in a single lab.

The testing announcement comes as the Capital Region is facing shutdowns in possible microcluster zones. On Sunday, the state reported that the Capital Region's seven-day rolling average is 4.5 percent of tests coming back positive, which was slightly lower than the state's overall 4.89 seven-day average.

Three top county leaders — executives Dan McCoy of Albany County and Steve McLaughlin of Rensselaer County, and Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman — expressed their commitment at a Saturday briefing to coordinate responses and strategies to combat the ongoing surge.

The county leaders each said they're waiting on guidance from the state to determine how yellow, orange or red microcluster zones will be assessed and designated.

"We're hoping on getting that soon next week," McCoy said.

Albany and Schenectady County's seven-day rolling average positivity rate has topped 4 percent for five days, which would've put the parts of the counties most impacted on a trajectory toward an orange zone designation under the previous microcluster guidance from the state. Schenectady County has topped 3 percent for three days, which would've meant a potential yellow zone designation.


(c)2020 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.)

Visit the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.