There is now an easier way to get tested for COVID-19 in Berkeley. All you have to do is cough and spit
If you were dreading that long cotton swab in your nose, I have good news: Now there is an easier way to get tested for COVID-19 in Berkeley.
After a successful two-day trial at the end of July where 500 people have been tested, the city of Berkeley partners with the company Curative to offer “oral-liquid” tests that allow results to be obtained within 24 to 48 hours. Instead of having a swab planted high in one nostril, this test is completely self-service. You cough three times, then put a tampon in your mouth for 20 seconds.
I made an appointment online for Saturday. The bright blue Curative kiosk with its cheery signage (“Hey there Berkeley Get Tested!”) Is set up in the parking lot of the Berkeley Adult School at 1701 San Pablo Ave. I arrived on time. There was plenty of parking. I already had reviewed the video on how to do the test that the company had sent. So I got online and in 10 minutes I was done. (I had to wait for two people in front of me.)
There is no contact with anyone during the procedure, which makes it suitable for our time. There is a Curative employee dressed in a lab coat, gloves, mask and face shield telling people where to go. Otherwise, testers stand inside the booth and talk to customers through a window.
The woman helping me lifted a screen and indicated that I needed to pick up a cotton swab sticking out of a slit. I swirled it around making sure I ran it down the inside of my cheeks, over my tongue and down my mouth. Then I unscrewed the top of a small plastic bottle and inserted my swab. That was it.
I got my results at 3:48 am Monday, about 38 hours after the test. (That was negative.) This turnaround time is much faster than the two weeks many Berkeley residents had to wait in late July after being tested at the California State site at 1730 Oregon St., or at the City of Berkeley site at 1900 Sixth St.
Berkeley’s self-serve kiosk is the first of its kind in the United States, although Curative is offering testing at drive-thru locations in Texas, Delaware, Chicago, and Los Angeles and will soon be setting up kiosks in some of those locations. This simple test is enough of a novelty that NBC Bay Area filmed Mayor Jesse Arreguín when he took his exam on Saturday. A sign at the testing site said the company had administered 1 million tests.
Curative Inc. is less than six months old. Fred Turner and Dr Isaac Turner co-founded the company in January to develop tests for sepsis, but switched to testing for COVID-19 in early March, according to a company spokesperson.
If you’re wondering if oral fluid tests are as accurate as those that flow through your nostrils (known as the nasopharyngeal test, or NP), the Centers for Disease Control thinks they are. At the end of April, the CDC has withdrawn its preference for the NP test. The FDA also granted emergency approval for oral fluid testing that month. The Yale School of Public Health conducted a comparative study and concluded that the saliva test was “preferable. “However, the study has not been peer reviewed.
The Curative booth will be open until Friday August 14. There are still appointments available for Thursday and Friday, according to a tweet from the City of Berkeley.
There is no upfront fee or copayment required to get tested. Curative will bill private insurance companies as well as Medical and Medicare.
Register here to make an appointment to be tested at the Curative kiosk.