Illinois officials work to make coronavirus saliva test available to general public

Health officials on Thursday announced that Illinois had more than 1,800 new positive coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

Now, officials are working around the clock to get a newly approved saliva test out to the general public.

“The beauty is: it's simple, fast and inexpensive,” said Dr. Martin Burke of the University of Illinois.

There is tons of excitement coming out of U of I where scientists' saliva-based test was just approved for emergency use on campus by the FDA.

“It’s fast and inexpensive enough that we can now scale it and test everyone on campus twice per week,” Dr. Burke said.

That is 60,000 students and faculty. Dr. Burke credits the test with helping U of I drop its COVID positivity rate from 1.5 percent earlier this summer to a miniscule 0.2 percent currently.

The next step? Bringing the tests from campus to all Illinoisans.

“We are all in on this so we have a whole team that's been built,” Dr. Burke said.

He would not speculate on a time-frame, but says that team is now dedicated to bringing the saliva-test to the general population.

“We are all rallied together. Trying to do everything we can to expand that access as fast as possible,” he said.

Once that happens, Burke says humans will finally be playing offense instead of defense against COVID-19.

“If we can get fast and frequent testing, combine that with masks and social distancing and those are critically important, we need to do all of these things together, the data suggests that we can actually do it,” he said.

Two other advantages of the saliva-based tests is that they're cheaper -- at $10 a test -- and there's only 3 to 6 hours of lag time between when you take the test and get your results. Those are both big improvements over nasal-swab tests.