Here’s how the United States is going to beat COVID-19–Coronavirus saliva tests. Meryl Kornfield, writing in The Washington Post, outlines how this got started and how it will work moving forward.
As the United States grapples with building testing capacity to meet the growing demand as people resume going to school and work, officials have placed their hopes on several solutions, including saliva testing. Because the test doesn’t require chemical reagents or swabs that have become scarce during the pandemic and offers a faster turnaround than the standard test, some believe it could offer the country a way to determine the spread of the virus quickly.
These tests, developed at Yale University and the University of Illinois, are pretty amazing. I know nearly first hand because my wife is employed at Illinois and my step-daughter is an incoming freshman. They’ve been tested multiple times and the experience was painless and fast. They get their results in just a few hours.
Illinois is leading the way.
One of the research groups is led by Martin Burke, a chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has already launched a similar saliva test he developed at the university’s campus to screen more than 50,000 students, faculty and staff members. The test’s quick turnaround time has allowed the school to reach its goal of 20,000 tests per day, or its aim to test students twice per week, Burke told The Post.
Millions of students are returning to college campuses this fall, and some have already been sent home because of outbreaks. As schools have wrestled with implementing coronavirus precautions and screening, Burke believes the speed and affordability of the saliva test could be scalable for others — if they have the availability of a lab. Frequent testing would can guarantee an infected person is notified and quarantined promptly before passing the virus to peers.
Illinois students can go to one of 40 testing stations across their campus, self-administer the test and get their results on a university-created app within three to five hours, Burke said. The school retrofitted its veterinarian laboratory to handle screening the student population. Burke hopes the capacity will be expanded to offer testing to other people off-campus.
No other campus has anything even close to this level of sophistication. Plus, the news just came down that the Illinois rapid saliva test for COVID-19 is now operating under FDA Emergency Use Authorization. The University isn’t messing around.
When these tests get implemented nationwide, we will finally be able to test and track on a massive scale. Once we understand the spread and can start isolating people, then we can slowly ramp up reopening on a more scientific footing and start the real recovery.
Maybe we’ll have in-person sports, concerts, and movies too. Wouldn’t that be nice?