Who knew spitting could be so hard?


Jimmy Doan, '21

Student deposits their saliva sample in to the collection box.

The first few weeks of 2021 came with many new and exciting events: a new strain of COVID-19, the inauguration of the 46th president, and news that students and staff of District 87 will be able to return to hybrid learning. However, there is a twist. In order to return to school, students and staff must do something that some find messy and unpleasant: spitting into a tube.

Although the process is distasteful, it is a necessary method of preventing the spread of COVID-19. After collection, saliva samples are sent to a lab to be screened for the likelihood of the virus. If a sample indicates a high probability of containing the virus, the family is contacted within 24 hours and will be asked to quarantine and schedule a COVID test to confirm the results. This method of screening is effective in minimizing the spread of the virus to students and staff, but is it really the best method?

Another known method of sample collection is nose swabbing. Those that have already done this method know that this process is very uncomfortable, and to some, a little painful. However, it is a sure way of confirming the presence of COVID-19, unlike the saliva testing, which only indicates the presence of a virus. Yet, the saliva tests were chosen over the nose swabbing tests. Why? According to Eric Johansen, Assistant Principal of Operations at GN, “Doing a weekly swab is not something we would consider as it would be very intrusive to students and staff, not to mention extremely expensive.” So although saliva testing does not confirm that a person has COVID-19, it is much more convenient and comfortable when compared with its counterpart.

In the meantime, saliva collecting is still pretty difficult. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get through your morning, trouble-free:

  1. Having trouble creating spit? Rub the outside of your cheeks! Smell or think about eating a lemon (your favorite food also works!)
  2. Trouble collecting your saliva? Try using a straw. Cut the straw into smaller pieces and use it to hone your spit. Or try putting your mouth around the tube and using your tongue and cheek to push the saliva into the tube (make sure to really clean it afterwards!)
  3. Avoid scraping your tongue or the side of your mouth! The only thing that is needed is your saliva; any other material may interfere with the test.

Understandably, if you are still having trouble, just take your time! The process may be difficult, but these tests give many students and staff a chance to come back to school and enjoy each other’s presence, especially for Lauren McHenry, ’24: “I thrive off of the energy of others and I get distracted very easily, so learning from home is very challenging. So I somewhat enjoy going to school and experiencing some sort of a freshman year.” Until everyone receives their vaccinations, just keep on spitting!