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SalivaDirect test could play a key role in returning to sports normalcy

Fans in the student section of Bryant-Denny Stadium against Tennessee
via: Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Not only has the NBA provided sports fans with a fun experience and release from the horrors of the outside world, but now it is helping provide the next step in COVID-19 testing.

On Saturday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization to allow the use of a new saliva base test developed by Yale and funded by the NBA as well as its players according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

The NBA players union contributed over $500,000 to fund Yale’s work on the new test, per ESPN.

The new test named SalivaDirect will be administered to the public following its initial screenings to the NBA players when entering the league’s bubble.

What’s beneficial about this new testing is its reduced requirements from the subject.

Unlike before, SalivaDirect does not require nasal swabs which can be uncomfortable, the test can be taken in any steril tube and sent into a lab for testing. This will hopefully prompt more people to get tested due to the nature of collecting the necessary data, but what will also be a driving factor for its success will be its pricing.

SalivaDirect’s cost per sample, or cost to make the test is roughly $4 with the cost to consumers likely hovering around $15 to $20. That would be a big change from the $100 cost customers may see from receiving tests.

Nathan Grubaugh, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale told ESPN, the new test is simple enough to be used at labs across the entire country as long as they go through the proper accreditation process.

Possibly the most important aspect of the new testing is the speed the results can return. Instead of waiting roughly 1-3 days, and in some cases longer, the SalivaDirect results can be processed within a few hours and but absolutely within 24 hours according to Grubaugh.

Yale’s new form of testing could help sports like the NFL and college football potentially put themselves in the right position to have even more successful seasons.

With tests that can be conducted from anywhere and results that can return in a short period of time, athletes will be able to know where they stand before they even walk out the door. This could be extremely beneficial for a college atmosphere.

Putting it within the context of the University of Alabama’s fall camp schedule. Players will be able to test themselves every Sunday or off day during the week to see if they have contracted the virus. Before, the current protocol was for the Crimson Tide to be tested at the start of each week and have to wait roughly a day for results to return. A lot can happen within that time frame and SalivaDirect will be able to alleviate some of the stress from the waiting period.

The success rate and ability to obtain the test will also play a huge role in the possibility of having some semblance of fans attending sporting events.

Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne recently said in a Zoom chat, that the school is still evaluating what it will do with the current ticket plans. SalivaDirect may allow Byrne and Alabama to allow a few more members to the stands to help alleviate some of the financial loss the program will suffer this fall.

Although the new testing will aid a return to somewhat normalcy in sports, Grubaugh made it clear that is not just for those who get to dribble a basketball or play on Sundays.

This test is for the people.

“My goal is not to test athletes,” said Grubaugh. “That’s not my target population. My target population is everybody.”

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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77

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