COVID-19 testing moves to nasal self-swabbing at the W.O. Walker Building

Starting Monday, Aug. 24, Cleveland Clinic COVID-19 testing at the W.O. Walker drive-through testing site in Cleveland will change to observed nasal self-swabbing. Instead of a caregiver collecting a patient’s nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, patients will conduct a self-collected nasal swab while observed by a caregiver. Patients who are unable to conduct a nasal self-swab (e.g., young children) will be swabbed by a caregiver.

Other Northeast Ohio ambulatory testing sites, Green and Broadway will move to observed nasal self-swabbing in the near future. NP swabbing will still be used for patients who are hospitalized or are tested in the emergency department.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and recent evidence support the use of nasal swabs. On April 29, 2020, the CDC removed the preference for an NP swab after published research suggested that other sample types, including a nasal swab, provide adequate collection for testing. Recent evidence, including a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows the amount of virus in the nose is essentially equivalent to the amount of virus in the nasopharynx.

This change will increase the number of patients who can be tested while preserving the highest level of safety for our patients and caregivers. A nasal swab will also be more comfortable for patients because the NP swap collects a sample from the upper part of the throat that lies behind the nose. 

Instructions for nasal self-swabbing will be provided to patients on our website, at testing sites and during the scheduling process.

Test ordering

Physicians should follow the same COVID-19 test ordering process. The order will be defaulted to a nasal swab instead of an NP swab within Epic.

As a reminder, to best serve our patients, we are prioritizing testing in Ohio for:

  • Patients who have symptoms of COVID-19, and have certain high-risk conditions (for details, see the testing workflow within the COVID-19 toolkit).
  • All hospitalized patients (including those in observation status), including hospital transfers and direct admissions.
  • Patients with scheduled or emergency surgeries or procedures that will take place in an ambulatory surgery center, operating room or emergency department.