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U of I honors scientists behind COVID-19 test used by Illinois schools

(The Center Square) – The scientists who developed a saliva-based COVID-19 test being used by Illinois schools were honored Monday.

The SHIELD test was granted emergency authorization by the FDA in February and has drawn global interest since it was launched at the University of Illinois’ three campuses in 2020. To date, the U of I System has administered nearly 3 million tests at its campuses in Champaign-Urbana, Chicago and Springfield.

U of I President Tim Killeen gave presidential medallions to the 28 members, for what he called their incredible response to the pandemic.

“Our contributions to the fight against COVID to date have been literally groundbreaking, and although not over, they have proven in real time with real tangible examples just what our university means to our people in Illinois and beyond,” Killeen said.

More than 1,000 Illinois schools have chosen to use the SHIELD COVID-19 test to begin the school year. As an alternative to quarantine, students and staffers who have been identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case now have the option of a Test-to-Stay protocol. Close contacts must be tested on days 1, 3, 5, and 7 after exposure. As long as close contacts remain negative, they are not required to quarantine.

Previously, SHIELD Illinois tests were offered to schools in low-income communities with high rates of the virus at no-cost. With funding from the federal CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, the state expanded free testing to all K-12 schools throughout Illinois.

U of I Chancellor Robert Jones praised the 28 members of the school’s SHIELD test team.

“It has been the creativity, innovation, hard work and collective genius of our SHIELD team that has allowed us to navigate COVID-19,” Jones said.

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