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New saliva-based coronavirus test unveiled with 'simplified' process

·Senior Editor
·4 min read

When the coronavirus outbreak first began in the U.S., the surge highlighted a critical flaw in the U.S. health care system: a lack of available testing kits.

Since then, companies and scientists all over the country have stepped up to try to make up for the shortfall. The FDA recently approved a saliva-based COVID-19 test developed by the genomics lab at Rutgers University, and it’s expected to roll out on Wednesday.

The test is shipped to you overnight. (Photo: Vault Health)
The test is shipped to you overnight. (Photo: Vault Health)

‘We’ve simplified this so that it is literally a 24-to-48-hour process’

Jason Feldman, the CEO of Vault Health, one of the companies that will have its patients using these tests during telehealth appointments, explained that the process for taking a test through Vault Health’s services is fairly simple.

If someone is experiencing coronavirus symptoms, they fill out a questionnaire on the company’s website, and then are sent a test kit overnight. Once they receive their kit, they log on to one of Vault Health’s Zoom “waiting rooms” where a practitioner is there to monitor the test.

“So literally, they will meet a practitioner, show their ID, and then they will spit into this tube, seal the tube, and put it back in the prepaid overnight to go back to our partners at Rutgers University, who will complete the test processing and deliver the results,” Feldman said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. “We’ve simplified this so that it is literally a 24-to-48-hour process. And we can do it across the United States.”

Coronavirus cases are still on the rise. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
Coronavirus cases are still on the rise. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Feldman described the saliva-based test as a “self-collection device” that’s part of a “completely monitored process” that helps accomplish two important things.

“It keeps practitioner and patient away from each other, which is very, very, very good, when we know that people who are potentially exposed could continue to spread the virus,” Feldman said. “And then it’s also preserving the use of very, very scarce PPE — this protective gear that we know is in limited supply. Those two reasons alone, and the FDA’s guidance on the Rutgers test, give us great confidence that we’re doing not only the right thing, but the best thing for the country.”

He also stressed that these aren’t technically at-home tests since they’re medically supervised.

“There is a really good reason that the FDA stopped at-home self testing,” Feldman said. “It’s dangerous, because using a swab test, the traditional test where you’re sticking a swab in your nose or in your throat, is really hard to do by yourself.”

A medical personnel takes a COVID-19 swab test at Santa Ana Hospital on April 14, 2020 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)
A medical personnel takes a COVID-19 swab test at Santa Ana Hospital on April 14, 2020 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

‘This is a really important answer to get very quickly’

There are more 580,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., although this number is likely higher due to the testing kit shortfall.

Experts have stated that the economy cannot reopen until more testing kits are readily available, and Feldman agreed with this assessment.

“This is a really simple process for us,” Feldman said. “We know that to get the economy started again, we have to make testing more readily available, more accessible.”

Feldman stressed that this test is not an antibody test, which looks for antibodies in a person’s blood to see if a person was exposed to the virus and developed some type of immunity towards it.

“This is a COVID-positive or -negative test,” Feldman said. “For the people who believe they have symptoms that are at risk of not being able to take care of their family members, this is a really important answer to get very quickly.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 12: People wearing a protective mask walks at Central Park during the coronavirus pandemic on April 12, 2020 in New York City. (Photo Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images )
People wearing a protective mask walks at Central Park during the coronavirus pandemic on April 12, 2020 in New York City. (Photo Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images )

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) recently expressed hope that antibody tests and rapid 15-minute tests could help determine how soon people can return to work.

“I think we go back with people who have tested, that they are negative, or people who have tested that they have the antibodies which means they had the virus and they’re immune from the virus, or we go back with young people going first,” Cuomo said.

Feldman also said that antibody testing is one of the next steps towards gaining control over the spread of the coronavirus.

“[That] will help us all understand whether or not we have been exposed and whether or not our bodies are responding to a defense system that will keep us protected in the future,” he said.

Adriana is a reporter and editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

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