Students react to the University’s new COVID-19 saliva-based testing

By Amanda Brennan & Taylor Howard

Last Wednesday, July 8, the University of Illinois began free, walk-up, saliva-based testing for students, faculty and staff with an I-Card. Instead of an uncomfortable nose swab, students simply have to spit into a test tube.

The saliva-based tests have received approval to be administered and processed through the Illinois Department of Health, however they have not yet applied for federal approval to expand testing outside of UIUC. The university plans to have dozens of test sites open campus-wide with the goal of testing 10,000 people each day. As of now, several students and administrators have utilized the sample testing site. There are no appointments needed , however Chancellor Robert Jones said employees should coordinate a time with their supervisor to get tested during work hours.

Alli Salmon, junior studying molecular and cellular biology, was tested on campus at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center last Friday. “There weren’t that many lines, there were maybe three people in line, so we waited five minutes at the social distancing spots,” said Salmon. 

Salmon’s I-Card was scanned, she was given a tube with a barcode and was then directed to another spot where she then spit into the tube. “It’s not hard at all,” she described. 

The small vial that students and staff are asked to spit in when tested.

Six hours later, Salmon received her result at 11 p.m. Her saliva-based test showed no trace of the virus. 

Typically, it takes about five hours to receive results, although, results may take up to 24 hours, according to the University’s COVID-19 website. Those tested will be notified via email when their results are ready in the McKinley Health Center Patient Portal.

Jake Sons, a recent graduate majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management, had a very similar experience. Sons shared his experience on Facebook, explaining that, “the staff was super nice and helpful; and the process was fast and easy.” 

Hi Everyone! This morning I got tested for COVID-19 for the first time. I am relieved to announce they found no trace fo…

Posted by Jake Sons on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Sons has gone through the testing process twice on campus. His first time was on the first day of testing, July 8, at the State Farm Center. His second was Monday at the new South Quad testing tent. Both experiences were “pretty much the same” he explained.   

Julia Greuel and Jake Sons after their COVID-19 tests on July 8 at the State Farm Center.

Sons hopes that more people will be able to be tested with this approach. “If you have the ability to get tested you should. All Illinois students and staff who are in the area should go get tested this week,” he shared. 

Antonio Webster, a student in Applied Health Sciences, said it is necessary for students to take precautions. 

“Testing should continue throughout the entire school year because I don’t think cases will be gone for a long time”, Webster said. 

Recent graduate Claudia Roberts said the process was simple and only took a few minutes. 

“This was my first time being tested and I have heard horror stories about how invasive it can be,” Roberts said. “I was nervous at first, but the workers practiced social distancing and were really helpful.” 

Roberts said she is hopeful that the accessibility to the testing on campus will encourage more students to get tested. 

“I think this will give students the opportunity to stop in between classes. It is accommodating because many students do not drive and the turn around for testing ensures safety for the campus.” 

There are now four testing locations on the Urbana-Champaign campus:

  • The Alice Campbell Alumni Center
  • The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)
  • The South Quad 
  • The State Farm Center
Orange dots indicate testing locations on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

For more information regarding saliva-based coronavirus testing at the University of Illinois, visit the COVID-19 website


Photo by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Facebook