Saliva tests for COVID-19 take off at airport today

Roman Harris, a Million Air worker at Albany County International Airport

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Roman Harris, a Million Air worker at Albany County International Airport, tests himself for COVID-19 by using a saliva swab. The free testing for airport workers started on Friday.

ALBANY COUNTY — Workers at the county’s airport started being tested on Friday for COVID-19 using saliva swabs. By the end of the month, the airport hopes to offer the test to travelers, too, a spokesman said.

The technology was developed over the summer as Quadrant Biosciences Inc. partnered with SUNY Upstate Medical University.

For years, Quadrant Biosciences had used similar technology to diagnose autism and other neurological diseases, according to Andrew Brindle, the company’s vice president of engineering, who spoke at an airport press conference on Friday afternoon.

The company “switched gears,” he said, with the advent of the pandemic  and was able in the early summer to get emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

The testing was rolled out at schools in the state university system in the fall and “ramped up” to cover all 64 campuses, Brindle said, stressing the importance of “hard numbers” from testing to control spread of the virus.

“The test is so simple to do,” said Brindle, as he demonstrated.

“We have an app that you use on your phone to do a registration,” he said. The swab has a barcode that is matched to that information.

Brindle took a vial, filled with a stabilizing agent, and a swab, out of a sealed packet and removed the swab, which he stuck in his mouth and rubbed along the inside of his cheeks.

The kit is then mailed to the lab and results are returned in 24 to 48 hours, he said.

Doug Myers, director of public affairs for Albany International Airport, said that airport workers will be tested every two weeks and that, by the end of the month, the test will be offered to travelers.

Travelers will pick up and pay for the tests at the airport and then drop the packets in the mail, receiving results within 48 hours, he said.

The service is free to employees, Myers said; the public will be charged $30 per test as will employees’ family members if they want to be tested.

Myers said Albany’s airport is “the first airport in the world” to test employees using the new technology.

“We are not encouraging folks to fly … We want people to be safe,” Myers said, urging people to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and stay home for the holidays.

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