(WCIA) — With three campuses combined, the University of Illinois System surpassed a COVID-19 testing milestone Wednesday, performing 1 million rapid, saliva-based tests since August, according to a news release.
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the largest university in the system and the home of the breakthrough high-frequency SHIELD testing initiative, accounts for the vast majority of system testing with more than 930,000 tests completed as of Thursday. The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) has performed more than 50,000 tests, and the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) nearly 25,000.
Because of the SHIELD testing and monitoring program, students were able to return to campuses for a safe, hybrid learning environment while keeping positivity rates much lower than the state average. The seven-day positivity rates have held at less than half of 1 percent on the UIUC campus and about 2 percent or less at UIC and UIS.
“The University of Illinois System has kept campuses and classrooms open for our students and provided many opportunities that would not have been possible with fully remote learning,” President Tim Killeen said. “The SHIELD testing program allows us to regularly test every on-campus student as well as all faculty and staff. Through 1 million tests to date, we were able to track the spread of the virus, allowing us to quickly isolate those who tested positive, spot flare-ups and crush them before they became outbreaks.”
“At the University of Illinois we love to innovate, and we love to work together. It’s a powerful combination of strengths, and reaching 1 million SHIELD tests is an exceptional example of what can be achieved when the inherent synergy of these strengths is fully harnessed,” said Martin Burke, professor of chemistry at UIUC and a member of the SHIELD team. “Hundreds of people throughout the University of Illinois System worked together in highly innovative ways to transform COVID-19 testing from defense into offense. We are hopeful that this same approach, which has now been extensively validated on scale, can be helpful to many other communities as society bridges to widely distributed COVID vaccines.”