October 26, 2021

College tests wastewater to track virus cases

Logo provided by SUNY Cortland

SUNY Cortland is testing its wastewater at the college to determine where there are positive coronavirus cases, said Lisa Perfetti, the interim county health director Thursday in a coronavirus update to the Legislature.

“We communicate every day with SUNY Cortland Health Center and the COVID task force staff to ensure coordination of testing, isolation and quarantine activities,” Perfetti said. “Most students are helpful and cooperative.”

Wastewater testing comes as the county has seen an increase in the number of positive cases since last month’s report to the Legislature.

The county has had 210 positive cases, up from 92 last month, with 33 of those cases currently ongoing.

Perfetti said more than 5,500 negative test results have come in over the last month.

She said some of the wastewater testing has coincided with known cases.

College data show 128 cases since the semester began, 50 of them current. However, some of those cases will count toward other counties’ tallies because they are recorded by the patient’s county of residence, which may not be Cortland County.

“We know the majority of these new cases are related to SUNY Cortland reopening and I can confirm that several of them are can be traced back to two or three individuals and small gathering over Labor Day weekend,” she said. “Many of the positives from those initial tracings were already in quarantine at the time of their testing and not furthering the spread to any significant degree.”

The college is also doing pooled testing of staff and students.

“Last week’s testing of over 1,000 students and staff resulted in only six positive test results,” she said.

“To date, we have completed 1,542 pool tests,” college spokesman Fred Pierce said this morning. “We are scheduled to do another approximately 500 today.”

The county health department also spent the past month helping school districts finalize their reopening plans, with many opening last week to students.

“We now have daily updates from each of the county school districts to stay on top of any potential trends and currently we have not identified any positive child or staff,” she said.

Perfetti reminded people to get a flu shot and said the county is working with doctors and pharmacies to identify any needs related to the flu in the county.

With schools open, cooler months ahead and people preparing to stay inside more Perfetti also reminded people to continue to wear a mask, wash their hands and stay home if they are not feeling well.