The SalivaDirect Initiative of the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) has joined with the Connecticut Department of Public Health to run two COVID-19 testing sites in the city of New Haven. Yale Pathology Labs, part of Yale School of Medicine, will analyze the samples collected at the sites.
Scientists at YSPH developed SalivaDirect, a highly effective and non-invasive test for COVID-19, in August 2020. Now, the two mobile sites on Long Wharf and the New Haven Green will offer up to 1,000 of these tests each day free of charge for New Haven residents who are symptomatic or have been recently exposed to COVID-19, effective immediately.
“In the time of surging COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant and increased demand for reliable PCR testing, I want to applaud the efforts of the SalivaDirect Initiative of Yale School of Public Health and the Yale Pathology Labs,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro during a press conference Thursday at the Long Wharf location. “Early and frequent testing remains one of the cornerstones of a successful response to this pandemic. This is why the work here at the saliva swab testing site is so critically important.”
As of January 26, Connecticut’s positivity rate for COVID-19 was at 10.93%, and there were 1,346 hospitalized patients. But even though positivity and hospitalization rates are on the decline, testing and early detection of COVID-19 remain critical due to the lingering presence of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The SalivaDirect COVID-19 tests are “cheaper, faster, and simpler” than other tests, said Sten Vermund, MD, PhD, Yale School of Public Health dean, Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, and professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine. The highly sensitive tests boast a 99.9% accuracy, the gold standard of testing, and the results are available electronically in 24 to 48 hours. Furthermore, its noninvasive nature is much more comfortable than the nasal swab.
“We designed the SalivaDirect COVID-19 saliva PCR test to be readily scalable and easy for labs to deploy, painless and simple for patients, capable of returning same-day results, and cost-effective,” said Anne Wyllie, PhD, SalivaDirect principal investigator and research scientist at Yale School of Public Health. “Because of this, SalivaDirect enables rapid setup of affordable testing programs like this one for all Connecticut residents.”
Wyllie adds that SalivaDirect is especially appropriate for the variant that is now dominant. “Preliminary studies have demonstrated that saliva-based PCR tests can be a more accurate method to detect the Omicron variant," she says. Studies have also shown that the SalivaDirect PCR test can detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in saliva samples approximately 72 hours before rapid antigen nasal swabs produce positive results.
“This is the kind of thing we want to be doing at Yale University,” said Vermund. “We want to be doing the kind of community service that makes a difference for the health of the people and our students.”
“It is a privilege to partner with the Connecticut Department of Public Health,” said Chen Liu, MD, PhD, chair and Anthony N. Brady Professor of Pathology at Yale School of Medicine. “Early in the pandemic, Yale Pathology Labs broke new ground as the first CLIA [Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments] lab to offer the SalivaDirect PCR SARS-CoV-2 test.”
“Effective health partnerships like this one make a crucial impact on pandemic response and provide inspiration for future community-driven success,” added Angelique Levi, MD, Yale School of Medicine associate professor of pathology and vice chair and director of pathology outreach services.
Both testing centers are open every day of the week except Fridays, including weekends. All tests are offered free of charge, and no insurance is required. The Long Wharf site is located at 60 Sargent Drive and is open from 8:00 a.m. to noon. The New Haven Green location, near Elm Street between Temple and Church Streets, is open from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 pm. Appointments are not necessary to visit either location. For more information, New Haven residents can visit https://covid19.newhavenct.gov/pages/covid-19-vaccination.