Ill. COVID test is something to spit at

Peggy Tapley is shown giving a saliva sample at Massac Memorial Hospital using a COVID-19 test developed by the University of Illinois that requires saliva rather than a nasal swab.

The University of Illinois has developed a simple test for COVID-19 that is easier to use and provides results in faster time than the nasal swab test.

Called covidSHIELD, the test was pioneered by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The test takes a sample of saliva instead of a nasal swab and provides results within 24 hours of the sample reaching a covidSHIELD lab.

The test determines the presence or absence of the genetic material contained in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The University of Illinois System received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on March 1, allowing it to be deployed throughout the state.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer used $20 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to provide 1 million tests across the state’s 12 public universities and 48 community colleges.

Groups known as SHIELD Illinois and Shield T3 are working to expand the testing program throughout the state, providing more than 4 million covidSHIELD tests that were processed at three University of Illinois campuses.

Testing has reached the southernmost point of the state, as Massac Memorial Hospital in Metropolis is using the test.

“You just spit into a vial,” said Janet Vannatter, Massac Memorial’s chief operating officer. “It’s sent off to the lab; you get results within 36 to 48 hours.”

Massac Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Walters said the saliva test is highly accurate at detecting COVID-19.

“Now if there’s a fear of getting tested, a fear of having my nose or brain probed, maybe this is a way that we can get this done and you can get some results,” he said.

At Massac Memorial, testing will be available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday in the hospital’s respiratory tent.

Peggy Tapley was able to receive a free saliva test without a doctor’s order on Monday. Tapley was directly exposed to someone with COVID-19. The accessibility of the test is a plus for the community.

Tapley said she will take a saliva test over the traditional one any day.

To have a saliva test, participants must refrain from eating and drinking (even water) and using any form of tobacco products for one hour before testing.

Neither Baptist Health Paducah nor Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital are using the covidSHIELD test.

Shamarria Morrison of WPSD Local 6 contributed to this story.

Follow David B. Snow on Twitter, @SunWithSnow, or on Facebook at facebook.com/sunwithsnow.

Follow David B. Snow on Twitter, @SunWithSnow, or on Facebook at facebook.com/sunwithsnow.

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