Boise State switches to saliva testing for COVID-19 during the spring semester

In the fall of 2020, Boise State created a testing center for students and faculty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and staff of the university operate the testing center alongside the Public Health Office to help ensure the safety of the Boise State community.

Public Health Officer Jordan Bastian explained how the testing center has become more efficient since it started.

“This is a program that has been built from the ground up. We have appointments that are available now, an easier registration fashion and we can get people through quicker. Instead of two people getting swabbed at a time, we can have up to eight people providing a saliva sample at any given time,” Bastian said.

In December 2020, the university switched from a nasopharyngeal swab test to a less invasive saliva test. The new way of testing is self-administered, is a fraction of the cost compared to the nasopharyngeal swab test, and gives an overall better sample, according to Bastian. 

As of Jan. 19, 6,769 tests have been conducted on campus, according to Bastian. To get tested on campus, students have to schedule an appointment with the testing center. 

[Photo of lab equipment]
Photo courtesy Hans Reniers

Currently, the testing center is not open to the general public, but the university has worked with organizations to provide testing as needed. 

Overall, Bastian encourages everyone to stay home if they are sick and continue to wear facial coverings while social distancing. 

“We continue to encourage that if you’re sick, report it to the Public Health Office so we can evaluate and you can get the proper test and treatment. I always encourage everyone to maintain social distancing and use face covers. Stay home when you’re sick. That’s one of the most important things,” Bastian said. 

At this time, Boise State has applied for and been accepted for a COVID-19 vaccination site and is in the process of hiring staff and purchasing proper equipment. The university is looking into serving the campus community and the general public in the future, but has not confirmed where on campus it will be yet 

Michelle Ehlke, junior radiology major, has been tested numerous times on campus to participate in lab activities on campus for her major. Ehlke has been tested using both the nasopharyngeal method and the saliva method. 

“Even though the nose [test] is more uncomfortable, I think I prefer that one. With the spit [test], you have more people in there with their masks off for an extended period of time until they get enough spit. Which, to be honest, took me about five minutes the first time and with the nose, it’s maybe 20 seconds,” Ehlke said. 

Other than the extended wait time for a saliva test, Ehlke said the process is simple and easy.

“I really think Boise State is doing a good job and did a good job after break,” Ehlke said. “They’re doing their best to stop the spread.”

Boise State continues to require facial coverings on campus and social distance guidelines. The university has introduced a reintegration plan, which includes the first week and last two weeks of the spring semester to be delivered remotely, according to Boise State University. 

In an email sent to students, Boise State has created an easy process for contact tracing. In classrooms across campus, QR codes are displayed for students to scan on their phones, which will pull up a list of questions about the student’s current location. If students are unable to scan the QR code, a seating survey form is provided. 

For more information about the testing center and Boise State Guidelines, visit the COVID-19 information and resources page.

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