Saliva Testing

An individual holds an empty vial for collecting saliva samples

Saliva-based COVID Surveillance Screening Registration ID

Fill out this survey at least an hour before each appointment to get your six-digit registration ID.

Transitioning to Saliva-Based COVID Surveillance Testing

Cal Poly is transitioning to a new method of surveillance testing for COVID-19 using saliva samples, which will be processed at our Cal Poly SARS-CoV-2 Testing Lab on campus. Saliva-based COVID surveillance testing will replace the nasal swab testing for students and offer faster, more convenient testing. The saliva-based test is free and no insurance is required.

Students will transition in two stages:

  1. Thursday, Feb. 18: The next phase of saliva-based testing starts at Poly Canyon Village (PCV). No nasal swab testing will be offered.
  2. Thursday, Feb. 25: Saliva-based COVID surveillance testing starts at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). We will continue to offer nasal swab testing at the PAC for employees.
  • After the PAC transitions to saliva-based testing on Feb. 25, students should use saliva testing. Look for specific details at Student Testing.
  • State; Associated Students, Inc.; and Cal Poly Corporation employees can continue to test with Avellino Labs at the PAC while we work on the transition for students. We will share more information with employees about accessing saliva-based testing as it becomes available.

How to Participate in Saliva-Based COVID Surveillance Testing

Who can participate

Students in the university’s ongoing testing program.

Locations

Poly Canyon Village, Aliso Conference Room (171A)
8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday
 
Performing Arts Center, Main Lobby (No. 6)
8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday–Thursday
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday

How to participate

  1. Get your six-digit Registration ID number before you arrive for your test — at least an hour beforehand. You need a new Registration ID for each test, and you can only obtain one Registration ID at a time. You will be asked to sign a medical consent.
    • Note: the Registration ID number is NOT the order/reservation number you receive from the Cal Poly Ticket Office (tickets@tickets.calpoly.edu) after making an appointment. Follow the above link to get your Registration ID.
  2. Visit the Student Testing webpage to make an appointment. You can make multiple appointments in advance.
  3. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids about one hour before your appointment. Don't eat or drink anything but water 10 minutes before your test. Arrive at the testing site without anything in your mouth. This ensures your sample is as clean and contaminant-free as possible.
  4. You will only be contacted if follow up is necessary. You will not be contacted if there is no follow-up required.

What to Bring

  • Your six-digit Registration ID.
  • Your mobile device
  • Your photo ID*
  • A water bottle (if you have one).

    * 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

  1. Follow safety rules
    Keep 6 feet of physical distance from others, and keep your face covering on except when giving your saliva sample.

  2. Show your daily screening pass

  3. Provide your sample
    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.

    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.

    Saliva-Based COVID Surveillance Testing FAQs

    Why is Cal Poly transitioning to saliva-based surveillance testing?

    The university is implementing 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 will yield a quicker turnaround than the nasal swab testing because the saliva samples are processed in our on-campus lab.

    Currently saliva testing is only available to students. We hope to offer this testing to faculty and staff in the near future. This screening is offered for free to the campus community members as a preventative measure to more quickly identify and isolate asymptomatic individuals. 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.

    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.

    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?

    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.

    Why am I not receiving a test result with the saliva-based surveillance test?

    Surveillance testing is not diagnostic testing. Our saliva-based COVID surveillance test is not a diagnostic test, so results cannot be provided at this time. Once saliva samples are transferred from the test site to the Cal Poly SARS-CoV-2 Testing lab, sample IDs are confirmed, inactivated and pooled using robotic technology. If a pooled test result is negative, then all specimens can be presumed negative with the single test. However, students will not receive a notification with their results from a negative pool. 

    Samples in positive pools are individually re-tested. Further testing may be required to determine if an individual has COVID-19. Students will be contacted within 24 hours (and no later than 48 hours) if follow up is required. In either situation, a result will only be provided if a follow-up diagnostic test is performed.

    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.

    Until Feb. 25 students can test with Avellino Labs at the PAC; following that date they should visit SLO County's Testing Information page for community testing sites.

    Does the saliva-based COVID surveillance testing fulfill the student ongoing testing requirement?

    Yes, students who are required to participate in the university’s ongoing testing program can utilize saliva-based testing at Poly Canyon Village starting Feb. 18 or nasal swab testing at the Performing Arts Center to meet the ongoing testing requirement as outlined in the Presidential Order. After Feb. 25, when saliva testing is offered at the PAC, students should only use the saliva method.

    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 health@calpoly.edu. If you have questions about the testing program and registration, please contact the COVID-19 Help Center at covid-help@calpoly.edu.

    Related Content