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PEF, SUNY renew mandatory, free COVID-19 testing

PEF President Wayne Spence and SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced on July 1 that they have renewed their agreement to extend mandatory, free weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated, union-represented employees through the end of the Fall 2021 semester.

Effective through December 31, 2021, all United University Professions, New York State Public Employees Federation, New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, and Police Benevolent Association of New York State employees working in-person on campus who are unvaccinated will be tested weekly for coronavirus. Testing will be conducted during regular work hours.

Fully vaccinated employees who voluntarily provide confirmation of vaccination shall be tested much less frequently and on a sampling basis to monitor for breakthrough infections. Frequency of testing for fully vaccinated employees shall be determined at the campus-level, after consultation with local union representatives.

These agreements extend prior memorandums of understanding to regularly test employees through the end of the spring semester—a key strategy for monitoring and rooting out COVID-19 on SUNY campuses.

“PEF has agreed to continue this testing protocol with SUNY for our members. The science is clear – unvaccinated individuals are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 — and testing them weekly will reduce the likelihood of another outbreak,” said PEF President Spence. “PEF and SUNY have been committed partners throughout this pandemic and I’d like to thank Chancellor Malatras for involving unions in these critical health and safety decisions.”

“As we fully reopen our campuses and welcome our students back to campus this fall, we will do everything in our power to ensure that the resumption of the full college experience goes smoothly,” said Chancellor Malatras. “While we hope the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the last 16 months has taught us to remain cautious and prepared. Vaccinations will allow us to fully turn the page, but until every one of our staff is vaccinated, testing—especially of unvaccinated staff—will remain key to managing the virus. While we want everyone in the SUNY community to get vaccinated, in the weeks and months to come, routine testing will continue to serve as an important layer of protection.”

Since August 2020, SUNY has conducted nearly 2.5 million COVID-19 tests for students, faculty, and staff. The overall system-wide positivity rate is 0.39 percent.