New Mexico to boost coronavirus testing with saliva samples

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Health Department said Monday it hopes to expand coronavirus testing capacity by offering a saliva test.

The method involves swabbing the mouth to collect a saliva sample, and state officials say saliva samples have been shown to be at least as accurate as nasal swabs.

The tests will be self-collected, but trained personnel will be present when and where these tests are made available to ensure samples are properly collected.

The Health Department is rolling out the FDA approved test at the Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque. The new method comes as the state has seen its seven-day averages for COVID-19 cases and deaths skyrocket. On Sunday, the state reported another 33 deaths linked to the virus, including a teenager from McKinley County who had underlying conditions.

A Utah facility transitioned to saliva-based COVID-19 testing in September.

Acting Health Secretary Billy Jimenez said the state is looking for better and more innovative ways to serve New Mexicans amid the pandemic. Aside from being faster and more convenient for the public, he said saliva testing also reduces exposure to healthcare workers and will alleviate some of the strain on the laboratories.