A saliva test to detect COVID-19 that was developed by Yale and paid for by the NBA won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Saturday for emergency use.
SalivaDirect, the fifth saliva test approved by the FDA for the disease, uses spit from people who think they have the coronavirus, the agency said.
The test is seen as a faster, results in less than 24 hours; cheaper, about $10; simpler, it uses saliva; and less invasive, no swab up the nose. And can use several readily available reagents.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association partnered with the Yale School of Public Health in June, the school said, and has used SalivaDirect to test asymptomatic players, coaches and staff from several teams.
The approval of the new test comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus tests conducted in the U.S. each day has fallen for the first time, despite calls from some public health and federal officials to significantly ramp up testing in the U.S., as it continues to lead the world in infections and COVID-19 deaths.
Figures from the COVID Tracking Project, which describes itself as “a collaborative volunteer-run effort” to track the outbreak in the country, show that reported daily tests have trended lower for much of the past two weeks.
Statistics from the project, a widely-used source of information by the White House and others, show about 733,000 people in the U.S. have been tested daily in August, fewer than some 750,000 the month before. The seven-day average plummeted to 709,000 on Monday before inching higher at the end of the week.
The decline, which occurred after months of increases in testing, may be linked to fewer people seeking tests as confirmed cases have leveled off following spikes this summer and people opting out of testing due to long wait times and delays in getting results.
As of Saturday, there were more than 21 million COVID-19 cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 5.3 million cases were in the U.S., followed only by Brazil, with 3.2 million.
Texas, one of the Sunbelt states hit hard by the coronavirus, has seen its average daily test number fall nearly 9% since the end of July, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
While Texas has made some progress against the outbreak, deaths remain high, an average or more than 210 a day in the past 14 days, and the rolling average of people who test positive for the coronavirus is 16%. That positivity rate could be a sign that not enough tests are being done. A rate of less than 10% is one indicator of robust testing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
In South Korea, more stringent social distancing restrictions were announced Saturday in Seoul and surrounding areas, where coronavirus cases have surged following successful efforts contain its spread.
Beginning Sunday, nightclubs, movie theaters and other high-risk places will be closed if they do not enforce preventive measures.
In Spain, dozens of people in Barcelona’s Torre Baro community were tested for COVID-19 Saturday after a spike in cases in the working-class neighborhood. Health officials hope to identify asymptomatic cases in hard-hit areas to break any chains of transmission.
Also, in Italy, the cruise ship MSC Grandiosa will begin a voyage to the Mediterranean on Sunday, after it and four other cruise ships were idled by the coronavirus pandemic in Civitavecchia, one of the world’s busiest ports.
The five ships can hold a total of 26,000 people. The four other ships will also resume operations soon, positioning Italy as the epicenter of an effort to resume cruises worldwide.