Saliva Testing

An individual holds an empty vial for collecting saliva samples

Before Every Saliva Test Appointment

1. Make an appointment before every test.
2. Get a new six-digit Registration ID at least an hour before every test.
3. No Food or Drink 10 Minutes Before Testing
Water is OK.
4. Bring a photo ID to the testing site.
5. Be prepared to show your green, blue or yellow campus pass (students only).

How to Participate in Saliva-Based COVID Surveillance Testing

Who can participate in Saliva Lab Testing

Students who are:

  • Asymptomatic.
  • In the university’s ongoing testing program.
  • Exposed to COVID-19 and asymptomatic.
  • Note: Campus Health and Wellbeing will continue to provide testing for students with COVID-19 symptoms.

Employees who are:

  • Asymptomatic and part of ASI, CPC, or the Cal Poly state system.


  • University Union 220.

Available Hours

What to Bring

  • Your six-digit Registration ID. You can only have one Registration ID number at a time, and you must get a new ID number at least an hour before each test. You will be asked to sign a medical consent.
    • Note: the Registration ID number is NOT the order/reservation number from the Cal Poly Ticket Office ( you will receive after making an appointment.
  • Your photo ID*
  • Your mobile device to show your green, blue or yellow campus pass (students only).

* Valid IDs include a Cal Poly ID, a driver’s license, state photo ID or passport with your legal name and photo.

At the Testing Site

Instructions for University Union 220 (UU 220)

  1. Take an empty vial.
  2. Write your initials and date of birth on the vial above the bar code using a pen provided on site. Write the first letter of first name and first letter of last name in CAPS. Initials should reflect the primary name on your Cal Poly Portal. Write your date of birth in this format: mm/dd/yy. Deposit the used pen as instructed.
  3. Follow staff direction to the area where you’ll give your sample.
  4. If needed, take a sip of water to moisten your mouth and swallow the water completely.
  5. Take a moment and allow the saliva to pool in your mouth under your tongue.
  6. When you’re ready, pull down your face covering and open the lid of your vial.
  7. Without snorting or spitting, place the vial against your mouth, purse your lips and tip the collected saliva into the vial.
  8. Repeat until you have 1 to 2 milliliters of saliva. (Fill the bottom of the cone to the bar code.)
  9. Replace your face covering. Snap the lid down tightly on the vial.
4. Hand in your sample
  1. Walk to the exit station.
  2. Provide your Saliva Test Registration ID number to the staff member.
  3. Say your full name and spell your last name.
  4. Show your photo ID.
  5. Hold the vial so staff can see your initials and date of birth. Staff will scan the vial.
  6. Place your sample in a receptacle as directed by staff.
5. Wash your hands
Use hand sanitizer as you exit the testing site.

A person processes a lab sample on campus

Cal Poly Technology

The saliva samples will be taken to the on-campus lab and processed using technology developed by faculty and staff specifically for Cal Poly.

Saliva-Based COVID Surveillance Testing FAQs

Why is Cal Poly using saliva-based surveillance testing?

The university implemented the saliva-based program because it is faster, more efficient and easier than nasal swab testing and will allow us to administer significantly more asymptomatic tests — strengthening our ongoing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our campus and local communities. It yields a quicker turnaround than the nasal swab testing because the saliva samples are processed in our on-campus lab. This comprehensive ongoing testing initiative is one of several prevention initiatives in place to mitigate the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

What is surveillance testing?

Our approach to testing the Cal Poly community using a saliva-based surveillance testing method is known as public health surveillance, meaning large numbers of individuals are continually tested over time. The term “surveillance” is a public health term that defines the assessment of population health. Public health surveillance is the “ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health-related data with the purpose of preventing or controlling disease or injury, or of identifying unusual events of public health importance.”

However, we know that it has historical and social connotations that can be triggering for underrepresented and BIPOC communities. This term is being explicitly used for the purpose of defining how we will measure the prevalence of COVID-19 illness throughout our broader campus community.

Surveillance testing is not diagnostic testing and will require follow up to determine your individual result. Visit this CDC webpage for more information on different types of testing, including diagnostic and surveillance testing.

What is the Laboratory Developed Test (LDT)?

The Molecular Laboratory Developed Test (LDT) is designed for use in a single laboratory to detect the virus that causes COVID-19 in respiratory specimens from saliva samples. The testing method uses a novel PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method developed at the Cal Poly SARS Saliva Lab (Cal Poly Center for Applications in Biotechnology).

Surveillance testing is not diagnostic testing and will require follow up to determine your individual result. Visit this CDC webpage for more information on different types of testing, including diagnostic and surveillance testing.

How does the test work?

This saliva program tests for the presence or absence of the SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in saliva to identify if someone is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once the sample is transferred from the test site to the Cal Poly SARS-CoV-2 Testing lab, sample IDs are confirmed, inactivated and pooled using robotic technology. Pooled samples are analyzed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) to identify the presence or absence of the SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA (ribonucleic acid). Samples in positive pools are individually re-tested with the same protocol.

What does it mean if SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is detected in the sample I provide?

Your sample will be tested in a pool of specimens from several students. Pooled testing, also known as group testing, is a procedure where individual specimens (e.g., urine or blood) are combined into a pooled specimen to test for a binary response (e.g., positive or negative HIV status).

If your sample pool has a positive test result, it is possible that someone in the pool of specimens has COVID-19. Further testing may be required. In order to minimize potential exposure, you will be directed to isolate if positive. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine how best to care for you based on the test results along with medical history and your symptoms.

How will I be notified of my results?

Cal Poly is utilizing a “public health surveillance” model for COVID-19 testing. This is not a diagnostic test. In this model, people participating in saliva testing do not receive individual test results unless further follow-up is required.

Students will only be contacted within 24 hours (and no later than 48 hours) if immediate action is required on their part. Students will not be contacted if there is no follow-up required.

Employees will be contacted by a medical provider with information on how to obtain a diagnostic test in the community, for example, at free testing locations across the county.

How do I get a test result for work or travel requirements?

Students who need to present a negative test result for work or other reasons will need to obtain a diagnostic test. Our saliva-based COVID surveillance test is not diagnostic testing and will require follow up to determine your individual result.

Please visit SLO County's Testing Information page for community testing sites.

How do I make an appointment?

Visit the student or employee testing webpage to find a link to make an appointment. You will need to make an appointment for each saliva-based COVID surveillance test. Only students can make an appointment for saliva-based surveillance testing at this time.

How do I cancel or reschedule an appointment?

Complete this form to cancel your appointment. If you need to reschedule, first cancel your appointment — using this same form — and schedule a new appointment. The link to cancel is also posted on the appointment page of the Cal Poly Ticket Office website.

Do I need insurance to access this screening?

The saliva-based COVID surveillance testing is free to all campus community members. No insurance is required.

Who do I contact with accessibility/accommodation questions or requests?

If you need any type of disability accommodation, including (but not limited to) physical access, deaf/hard of hearing services or adapted materials, contact the Disability Resource Center between 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 805-756-1395 in advance of your participation or visit.

What opportunities do I have to ask questions about this test?

You can direct any medical questions about saliva-based COVID surveillance testing to Campus Health and Wellbeing. Please email

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