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Campus Health now offers saliva-based COVID-19 test, free for students on and off campus

UNC sophomore Jaden Passero collects a sample in a test tube for COVID-19 testing at the FPG Student Union on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

Campus Health has a new method of testing for COVID-19 that is free and voluntary for all students — whether living on or off-campus.

The saliva-based test, which is administered in the Carolina Union Gallery Area in the Student Union, uses saliva samples instead of the nasal-swab testing method. 

Testing is available five days a week, Monday through Friday, with no cost to students and free parking. Tests are processed and reported by the Radeas Lab of Wake Forest, the same lab the University has previously used.

Students should not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes before the test. 

Students who remain in the area are asked to get tested every five to nine days, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson said in an email to students. 

Ken Pittman, the executive director of Campus Health, said the change to the new method of testing was part of a drive to increase the number of tests the University could give to the remaining students in the Chapel Hill area. 

Pittman said it takes two to three days to get results.

“Our desire is to increase the utilization of prospective testing by all students — both those in residence halls and off campus,” Pittman said.

Pittman said Campus Health averaged 14 tests per day between Sept. 9 and 27. But, after the new test was implemented, that figure rose dramatically.

“On our first day of implementation on Sept. 28, we tested 136 students and by 2 p.m. on Sept. 29, we had tested over 70 students,” he said. “So at least initially, our hope that numbers would increase is occurring.”

Students who are symptomatic, have been potentially exposed to or had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should continue to opt for the nasal-swab tests at the Campus Health Testing Center, Pittman said. 

Many students living in the Chapel Hill area, such as Vivian Karamitros, have already tried the new method of testing.

“I would say that it’s pretty simple," Karamitros, a junior majoring in statistics and analytics, said. "All I had to do was spit in a cup until it filled it up to a line, so it wasn’t uncomfortable at all."

Diksha Joshi, a junior majoring in neuroscience, also tried the new testing method. 

“I had a nasal test done in July and so that one was very uncomfortable, so compared to that one, it’s a lot easier and more comfortable,” Joshi said. 

Joshi said she believes more students will get tested with this new option.

“I think it’s because the test location is a lot more accessible now in the Student Union and it’s closer to some off-campus students,” Joshi said.

William Overton, a senior majoring in exercise and sport science and religious studies, also said he appreciates the convenience of the testing site. 

“The location to get tested is a lot better than in the past, especially if they want off-campus people to get tested," he said. "That’s definitely a better option than having them go to Campus Health."

Joshi said she hopes people who were not aware they were positive for COVID-19 will now know.

"Overall, more testing will be better for the community than less testing, so I’m personally okay with that," Joshi said.

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