The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday announced a $225 million investment to expand access to the University of Illinois’ covidSHIELD testing to middle and high schools across the state at low or no cost.
The covidSHIELD test, which was developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is a saliva-based test that quickly detects the virus that causes COVID-19, including in people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms.
“For in-person learning to occur, we need to help make schools as safe as possible for students, teachers, and staff,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a news release. “To help prevent an outbreak, it is important to identify cases of COVID-19 as quickly as possible. Having testing readily available in schools can make it easier for more students to be tested and cases identified quicker. Testing, along with vaccination and masking, will help all of Illinois get back to in-person learning.”
Instead of a nasal swab, the test uses saliva, which takes minutes to collect and results are available within 12-24 hours after the sample reaches the lab. The specimens will be collected at each participating school and parental consent is required.
“We are so excited to have students back in classrooms, reconnected with their teachers and their friends,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “COVID-19 testing in schools helps to preserve and protect the in-person learning that we have all worked so hard to bring back by quickly identifying any new cases and reducing the risk of transmission. Making testing widely and freely available gives schools another important tool to keep students and educators safe as we move closer and closer to putting the pandemic behind us.”
For schools opting to use covidSHIELD testing will be available for free at middle and high schools in districts that are predominately low-income and have experienced high rates of COVID-19 infection. Other schools will receive a discounted fee of $10 per test. The classification of low-income school districts is determined by the Illinois State Board of Education Evidence-Based Funding. Schools looking for more information on testing or to sign up for covidSHIELD testing can contact Beth Heller at email@example.com.