The five drive-through COVID-19 testing sites operated by University of Utah Health have switched from nasal swabs to saliva sampling. The saliva test was developed by ARUP Laboratories, a nonprofit enterprise of the University of Utah.

The nasal swab coronavirus tests are widely considered to be uncomfortable, if not painful.

“The big benefit for the person getting the test is they no longer have to have a swab jammed up their nose that far,” said Dr. Adam Barker, director of the ARUP COVID-19 Rapid Response Lab. He said plenty of people are apprehensive about getting a COVID-19 test because they’ve heard it hurts.

“Now they can go in and they can just simply salivate into a funnel, close the cap off and give it to us, and we’re good,” said Barker. The saliva test kits can be handed out quickly to patients waiting in cars, he said.

“We think it’s going to make it that much easier for patients to have a test,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, chief medical officer of ambulatory health for University of Utah Health.

The saliva test is also safer for healthcare workers, who don’t have to stand around outside in their full protective gear, said Orlandi. He said results of the tests come back to patients in 24 to 36 hours.

“Any barrier that we can remove to getting testing is going to help our community control the coronavirus infection,” said Orlandi. He added that the saliva test has proven to be the equivalent of nasal swabs, which is considered the gold standard. He said in tests conducted by his department comparing results from saliva tests with those who also tested with the nasal swab, the saliva tests caught five cases the nasal swab did not identify.

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