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Acceptance of Saliva-Based Specimen Collection for SARS-CoV-2 Testing Among K-12 Students, Teachers, and Staff

, Mary Claire Worrell, Sara Malone, Patrick Dawson, Brett Maricque, Jessica L. Halpin, Sooji Lee, Stephanie A. Fritz, Sarah C. Tinker, Julie A. Neidich,
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Published: 9 February 2022

Abstract: Objective: Saliva specimens collected in school populations may offer a more feasible, noninvasive alternative to nasal swabs for large-scale COVID-19 testing efforts in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) schools. We investigated acceptance of saliva-based COVID-19 testing among quarantined K-12 students and their parents, teachers, and staff members who recently experienced a SARS-CoV-2 exposure in school. Methods: We surveyed 719 participants, in person or by telephone, who agreed to or declined a free saliva-based COVID-19 reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction test as part of a surveillance investigation about whether they would have consented to testing if offered a nasal swab instead. We conducted this investigation in 6 school districts in Greene County (n = 3) and St. Louis County (n = 3), Missouri, from January 25 through March 23, 2021. Results: More than one-third (160 of 446) of K-12 students (or their parents or guardians), teachers, and staff members who agreed to a saliva-based COVID-19 test indicated they would have declined testing if specimen collection were by nasal swab. When stratified by school level, 51% (67 of 132) of elementary school students or their parents or guardians would not have agreed to testing if a nasal swab was offered. Conclusions: Some students, especially those in elementary school, preferred saliva-based COVID-19 testing to nasal swab testing. Use of saliva-based testing might increase voluntary participation in screening efforts in K-12 schools to help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Keywords: nasal swab / specimens collected / saliva based COVID / offered

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