SAG HARBOR, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was a Herculean effort to ramp up nasal swab testing for coronavirus, but now the saliva test could pave the way to widespread testing.
Linda and Jonathan Kamen, hunkered down in Sag Harbor, didn’t need a test to tell them they probably were infected with COVID-19 in mid-March.
“I started getting chills, extreme chills,” said Linda Kamen in an interview with CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
The closest testing site, however, was an hour away.
“I could not have gone to have that, I was too sick,” Linda Kamen said.
“She couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks,” Dr. Jonathan Kamen said.
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Their doctor ordered a home saliva test for both of them.
“I did the application on Monday, did the test on Tuesday, Wednesday evening I had the results. We were both positive,” said Jonathan Kamen.
The $99 test was developed by MicroGenDX, a lab based in Orlando, Florida. The test was the first to provide the speedier and simpler form of COVID-19 testing.
“We were one of the first, I believe, to be touting the fact that saliva or sputum is a better source,” said MicroGenDX’s Director of Sales Ken Perry. “It’s easier to obtain, less invasive, and we also believe it will have a lower chance of coming back as a false negative.”
MicroGenDX is now working around the clock to ramp up production for states and municipalities, as are labs around the country.
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Rutgers just got FDA approval to use saliva testing at its sites.
Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen says the saliva test is part of the answer to getting America back to work.
“It’s certainly better to have more types of tests available to more people,” said Rasmussen. “Really, the only thing that will allow us to open up safely is having those additional tests.”
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According to a Yale University study, the saliva test is more reliable than nasal swabbing. Without the need for a health care worker, it saves on personal protective equipment and swabs that are in short supply.
“The patient will simply put the specimen after they spit into the cup,” Perry said.
“The saliva one is the only one that is fast and easy,” said Linda Kamen.
Two weeks after they had their saliva test results, the Kamen’s finally got a call back from the state COVID-19 hotline saying they could come get their nasal swabs.
By that time, they had already recovered.