Crow

With Gov. Doug Ducey looking on, Arizona State University President Michael Crow explains Thursday how a new virtually instant test for COVID-19 being developed will work.

PHOENIX — Arizona State University is getting $6 million from the state to finish developing what is being billed as a virtually instant test for COVID-19.

At a press briefing Thursday, ASU President Michael Crow described the device as what would be the next generation of saliva testing. But the advantages go beyond not having someone poke a cotton swab up your nose.

“You’ll spit in to one of the most advanced technological devices that you could possibly imagine,’’ Crow said, which will have microchips and tiny laboratory devices that will heat the sample and do the chemical analysis “in a thing not much bigger than an electrical thermometer.’’

“That thing communicates with your cell phone,’’ he said. “You get the green light, you go to school, you go to the work, you go to the game.’’

The cash, from federal dollars, is part of $14 million being awarded to all three state universities for things they will do to deal with the virus. The $6 million divided among the trio will be used for additional testing and other response efforts, including expanding the testing of wastewater.

That last category is designed to allow universities to see if there are positive results from the sewage of any of the dormitories. If so, then they can test individual students and, as appropriate, quarantine those who are sick or who have been exposed.

ASU is describing the test as a “point of need’’ device.

“We believe that we can have a prototype ready in six months,’’ Crow said.

A total of $5.2 million is coming from the federal government dollars controlled by the governor’s office and another $860,000 from the state health department.

One particular place where the device could prove useful is at nursing homes and other congregate care facilities.

Rules adopted by the health department say family members can have indoor visits if they present the results of a COVID-19 test done within the past 48 hours. That, in turn, requires not just coordinating the process of going to a laboratory but hoping that the results come back in time.

This device, with what has been billed as a 15-minute response time, could make all that unnecessary.

There was no estimate of what the device might cost.