COVID-19 test types: What’s the difference?


OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 News) – Most COVID-19 test sights are shifting to saliva-based testing and away from the uncomfortable nasal swab for collection. ABC4 News is asking health providers what the difference is between the tests.

The two main COVID-19 collection types are the deep nasal test and the saliva collection test, according to Dr. Anthony Wallin of Intermountain Healthcare.

“There’s not a lot of difference in the quality of the test, it’s mainly for comfort,” said Wallin.

Dr. Wallin says the saliva based test is more convenient. 

“There’s the opportunity as we move forward, to be able to collect that anywhere, say at your house, whereas the nasopharyngeal requires someone else to do that,” he added.

Some patients wait a few days for results, while others get a rapid test, getting results in just 30 minutes. One example of a rapid test is a PCR and providers are given a limited amount. It allows doctors to take a small sample of DNA and amplify it to study it in detail.

“That’s the higher quality test, that gets done in the hospital for high priority patients,” he said.

Dr. Wallin says an antigen test is another form of a rapid test, which allows doctors to observe the proteins on the virus.  

“But there’s got to be a high priority reason for that, most of the out-patient curbside tests aren’t that high priority,” said Wallin.

For those wanting to get tested for COVID-19 contact your health provider, or visit

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