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Saliva-based COVID-19 Testing For New York City Public Schools

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Saliva-based COVID-19 testing is rolled out as a pilot for public schools in New York City. The new two-month pilot program is being implemented in about 50 New York City public schools and utilizes Fluidigm Technology to offer RT-PCR COVID-19 testing.

New York City public schools have instituted mandatory random weekly testing in all reopened school buildings to ensure safer in-person learning. The first round of testing began on June 1 and will continue through the end of the school year and into summer programming.

The test is developed by diagnostics technology firm Rover Labs and uses technology developed by Fluidigm Corp. The new test will improve the comfort and convenience of testing for both kids and adults, as well as reduce the cost and complexity of gathering samples.

Rover Labs is testing students and staff in the public schools from all five boroughs with a saliva-based test that is turnkey, cost-effective, highly sensitive and seamless to implement. It also enables scalable, simple high-volume sample collection and provides a more comfortable experience than traditional nasal swabs

Peer-reviewed research has confirmed that the accuracy of saliva-based COVID-19 testing is comparable to that of the PCR nasopharyngeal-based (nasal swab) testing. A systematic review and meta-analysis also showed that saliva-based tests have a similar sensitivity and specificity and presents an attractive alternative to invasive nasal testing.

Further, NYC Health + Hospitals participated in a large concordance study in December 2020 in which the saliva-based COVID-19 test compared favorably with a gold-standard anterior nares swab test on 460 patients.

For the testing, saliva samples of the students, teachers and staff are collected through a simple self-collection process overseen by school nurses. The collected samples are then picked up by Rover Labs and delivered to their partner lab in Eatontown, New Jersey for processing.

Using Rover CloudLIS, an integrated cloud-based lab information system, Rover Labs handles the entire testing workflow from test kit provisioning through test registration and automatic reporting, allowing for fast and confidential reporting of the results.

The test results are delivered to the sample owners' smartphones via Rover Labs' proprietary cloud-based lab information system.

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