CHICAGO (CBS) — An exclusive look at a major breakthrough in coronavirus testing, on a day Illinois set a new record, testing more than 51,000 people.
A day when all of those people are being told to wait four to seven days for their results. CBS 2 traveled down to the University of Illinois to watch students and staff get tested — and get results in three to four hours.
It’s a saliva test that could be a game changer. CBS 2’s Chris Tye from the University of Illinois campus in Urbana Champaign.
Before the end of the week, 70,000 COVID tests will be conducted around the University of Illinois campus. Tests that cost less, come with less pain and less wait time. It’s going to be a lifeline ready to go mobile.
They’re swiping and spitting at 40 COVID test tents around the U of I campus. They drool into plastic containers with their personal identifiers on them. Once there’s enough, they’re collected every 60 minutes.
And every hour on the hour, a driver comes and picks up those samples. They’re taken here to a lab inside the converted U of I veterinary hospital. The saliva is heated to 200 degrees and the results come quick. The whole process in the lab takes about two hours. It’s fast, cheap and reliable.
Since saliva tests started on campus the week of July 4th, positivity rates have dropped from 1.5% to .2% percent on Thursday. Testing allows for isolating, particularly for those who don’t know they’re transmitting.
And U of I is just the start.
“There’s also a mobile version of this labs in a truck to drive and service these communities. First to launch in early September,” said Paul Hergenrother of the University of Illinois’ school of chemistry. He’s been working around the clock since April to devise the first of its kind test which received FDA emergency approval this week.
The test isn’t proprietary, so other institutions can replicate. And they’ve been eager to do just that.
“I’ve talked to 30 universities to talk about analogous processes,” he said.
Food processing plants and elder care facilities also anxious to try new testing approaches.
“But I’m super happy the school is taking these precautions to see how COVID is going to spread,” said Caroline Szkwarek, a U of I junior from Wicker Park.
Peace of mind for the student body starting class Monday, but for everybody else, the clamoring effort to replicate the saliva tests is getting louder every hour since their approach first made news.