Orange County Set to Release At-Home COVID-19 Tests

Starting next week clinics will begin handing out saliva tests that can be done at home and at no cost in select Orange County cities.

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A new type of COVID test is about to be made available to thousands of Orange County residents.

It's a push to get more people tested. But this test can be done at home.

Officials at Families Together of Orange County say they test about 150 people a day for coronavirus. Right now that means driving through their First Street site.

Starting next week they will join four other clinics and begin handing out saliva tests that can be done at home and at no cost.

Clinic organizers say that could make a big difference since people who come to take the test rarely come alone.

"There's another four to five persons from the home so if I'm able to give them another four to five tests to take home and be reported to the lab I think that will increase our capacity of testing," said Alexander Rossel, the CEO of Families Together of Orange County.

County health officials will start with 11,000 tests in areas that continually see more positive COVID rates than others, such as Santa Ana and Anaheim. The tests are then mailed to a lab.

The saliva collection kit was designed by Ambry Genetics, a company that has used the same process to research genetic health conditions for a decade. Now instead of a nasal swab you will use your own saliva.

"The individual can spit directly into the tube and then you use this buffering solution it will puncture into the tube and stabilize the saliva as it's shipped to laboratory," said Laura Panos Smith of Ambry Genetics.

Company officials say the Aliso Viejo lab is set up to analyze saliva samples, unlike other labs that process only swabs and blood. They expect to be able to do 5,000 tests a day.

"Right now our turn around time is 24 to 48 hours currently running thousands of samples a day," Aaron Elliott, the CEO of Ambry Genetics. "Ninety five percent are coming back in 24 hours."

By December the county will make another half a million tests available through an online portal that asks about symptoms and screens for those at high risk.

The goal is to use these new mail-in tests to track the spread of the virus in a county that saw its case numbers increase this week as it slid back to the most restrictive purple tier.

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