July 29, 2020
As New Jersey combats rising coronavirus infections, the state is ready to broadly deploy the rapid-response saliva tests developed by RUCDR, a unit of Rutgers University's Human Genetics Institute.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday that the state will administer 30,000 of the saliva tests on a daily basis, allowing for a 48-hour turnaround on results as national labs struggle to meet demand.
"This further builds out our ability to identify potential hotspots and problem areas and to continue our work to further slow the spread of COVID-19," Murphy said.
In April, the RUCDR Infinite Biologics group developed a system that can extract virus RNA from a person's saliva collected in a tube, providing a safer and more efficient method than nasal and throat swabs. The tests are processed through an automated, Nobel Prize-winning laboratory technique that makes millions of copies of the SARS-CoV-2 virus' genetic information in the analysis of a single sample.
With approval from the FDA, Rutgers was given a green light to develop its capacity for wider use in the United States. The tests were first available throughout New Jersey's RWJBarnabas Health Network. They have since been approved for at-home collection and submission to a lab for analysis.
Murphy said the saliva test kits will initially be prioritized for at-risk populations, including front line workers and those predisposed to more severe infections.
New Jersey reported 565 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily increase since early June. The state has seen a rash of new infections tied to large social gatherings and limited adherence to the governor's face mask mandate, which applies to both indoor and outdoor public settings.
As of Tuesday, New Jersey had recorded 180,295 coronavirus cases since March 4, along with 13,905 lab-confirmed deaths and 1,920 fatalities probably caused by COVID-19. The state has the second-highest COVID-19 death toll behind New York, with 32,719 deaths attributed to the virus.