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Nasopharyngeal swabs (NPS) collected by trained healthcare professionals are the preferred specimen for SARS-CoV-2 testing. Self-collected specimens might decrease patient discomfort, conserve healthcare resources, and be preferred by patients. During August - November 2020, 1,806 adults undergoing SARS-CoV-2 testing in Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia, provided self-collected anterior nares swabs (ANS) and saliva specimens before NPS collection. Compared to NPS, sensitivity for SARS-CoV-2 detection by rRT-PCR appeared higher for saliva than for ANS (85% versus 80% in Denver; 67% versus 58% in Atlanta) and higher among participants reporting current symptoms (94% and 87% in Denver; 72% and 62% in Atlanta, for saliva and ANS, respectively) than among those reporting no symptoms (29% and 50% in Denver; 50% and 44% in Atlanta, for saliva and ANS, respectively). Compared to ANS, saliva was more challenging to collect and process. Self-collected saliva and ANS are less sensitive than NPS for SARS-CoV-2 detection; however, they offer practical advantages and might be most useful for currently symptomatic patients.

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