CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois became the face of COVID-19 testing during the pandemic thanks to its SHIELD test. The rapid, saliva-based test was developed by university scientists to ensure students could return to campus for and remain healthy throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.

Recently, a new report of collected data showed the test successfully slowed the spread of COVID through the university community and reduced hospitalizations and deaths.

The report, published in Nature Communications, showed that Champaign County saw roughly a third less COVID cases than expected between early July and late December of 2020. Among 251 counties in the U.S. with a major university located in them, Champaign County also saw the greatest reduction of deaths – more than four times less than predicted based on those other counties’ numbers.

“The original SHIELD program on campus, That spun up into SHIELD Illinois and SHIELD T3,” said. SHIELD team leader Rebecca Smith. “So, SHIELD Illinois is a university system project that provides testing across the state, and SHIELD T3 is an LLC that provides our testing program outside of the State of Illinois.”

Safety and testing in Champaign County remains the top priority for the original SHIELD team. More information about this report and SHIELD Illinois can be found on the Illinois News Bureau website.