PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- As COVID-19 numbers increase in Arizona, testing centers are expecting a renewed influx of people. When testing began at State Farm Stadium at 6:30 Saturday morning, upwards of 1,500 registered participants began waiting in a line of cars.

The draw with this COVID-19 test is that it's free and painless, unlike the dreaded nose swab. This test, which Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute developed, is an FDA-certified saliva-based test that's supposed to be as accurate as the nasal swab test.

Arizona State University creates test for COVID-19 that uses saliva

Here's how it works. First, you'll want to pre-register online to secure a testing time through ASU's partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services. Click here to go to the AZDHS website, and when prompted for your "agency code," use the name SALIVATEST. 

You'll be given a QR code, which you'll need to bring with you, along with photo identification. When you arrive, you will stay in your vehicle the entire time, masked up. You'll be directed to one of two triage centers. A clinician will hand you a straw and a tube for your saliva sample, which you'll handle yourself from inside your car.

"You stick the straw into the tube for the sample," explained Breanna Carpenter of ASU's Biodesign Institute. "A lot of people produce bubbles, and we have a minimum and a maximum line on the tube, so we need at least between the minimum and the maximum, in addition to the bubbles," she says.

To ensure a successful test result, they recommend no chewing gum, eating, smoking, vaping, or drinking -- including water -- for at least 30 minutes beforehand. "We encourage pre-hydration before the 30 minutes starts," Carpenter said. "We want to make sure we have enough of your actual saliva."

The Biodesign Institute first piloted the saliva-based test with a network of Phoenix first responders at risk of exposure to the virus. By comparing the results of these tests with nasopharyngeal swabs from the same individuals, the Biodesign Institute confirmed that the saliva-based tests were just as accurate. The Biodesign Institute then expanded its saliva test network to include ASU students and employees. The tests were rolled out to the general public in early July.

Other testing sites providing free saliva diagnostics for COVID-19 are set up in high-need and underserved communities around the state. Given Arizona's recent surge in cases as we approach the holiday season where social interactions might increase, ASU says additional testing and quicker results will be especially important.

"Turnaround time is key," says Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute at ASU. "If results take a week, then it's going to be too late. Testing is only an intervention if you can get an answer back to somebody quickly." The results of this test are being processed and delivered through text and email within 48 hours.

More stories about saliva-based COVID-19 testing

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New saliva-based Covid-19 test could be a fast and cheap 'game changer'
FDA authorizes the first at-home Covid-19 saliva test
FDA authorizes Covid-19 saliva test for emergency use

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