By John Ramos

BERKELEY (CBS SF) — A Silicon Valley startup developed a new system for coronavirus testing that is more accurate and “user friendly,” as it doesn’t require users to stab their brains with q-tips and requires little technical assistance. 

The walk-up, self-test kiosk from Curative debuted Tuesday in the parking lot of the Berkeley Adult School. It was the first example of walk-up, self-testing in the country. 

To use the system, called an oral fluid test, clients cough three to five times before stepping into a kiosk. They then take a swab sticking out of a slot, wipe the inside of their mouths for 20 seconds and put the swab in a plastic vial. From there it is collected by a technician and sent off for testing. 

Users seemed happy with the system as it wasn’t as harsh as the tests commonly used for COVID-19, which requires a 6-inch cotton swab shoved up the subject’s nose.

“I didn’t realize this was an oral swab coming into it. I was expecting to get jabbed in the sinuses,” said Oakland resident and test subject Mike Wallace. “But this was totally easy, totally painless…better than I expected.”

As a childcare provider, Oakland resident Tracey Schear had already been tested twice with the nasal method that some call “brain swabbing.”

“That swabbing is quite a bit more painful than what I just experienced,” she said. “So, this is great because it allows us, as citizens, to participate.”

Curative started working on the oral fluid test back in March.A new Yale University study actually found the oral fluid test to be more accurate than the nasal swab. The theory is that, by coughing first, it tests what’s in people’s lungs, rather than just what’s in their sinuses. 

Agatha Bacelar, Curative’s vice president of field operations, said because the company is focused solely on the Coronavirus, they can provide results in 24-48 hours of delivery.

“This is all we do,” she said.  “We didn’t even exist before the pandemic. That’s what our whole lab capacity is for and we build tools and systems just to do this at a pandemic scale.”

The walk-up, self-test kiosk was a new concept for Curative. Its partnership with the city of Berkeley allowed it to test more than 500 people in just the first two days. 

It was scheduled to end on Friday but those who have experienced it, like Berkeley’s Emily Hancock, don’t understand why it should end at all.

“I already asked them,” she said, “are you going to do this again next week and the week after and the week after and the week after?  And they don’t know yet but I hope they will.”

All those who want to be tested in Berkeley must pre-register online. For more information, visit the City of Berkeley’s website. 

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