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Illinois expands COVID-19 testing to elementary schools

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WREX) — The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced it is expanding access to no-cost and low-cost COVID-19 testing to elementary schools across Illinois.

Schools can choose to utilize the saliva-based covidSHIELD test developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

The covidSHIELD test can quickly detect the virus that causes COVID-19, and its variants, including among people who do not have symptoms.

Schools and IDPH will receive test results within 24 hours of specimens reaching a SHIELD Illinois lab.

"As we move ever closer to returning to how we lived pre-pandemic, it is critically important that we identify cases of COVID-19 as quickly as possible to help prevent outbreaks, which could ultimately lead to new surges," said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  "Offering testing in schools, along with vaccination and masking, can help protect students, staff, and teachers when in-person learning resumes."

Testing is free for schools in districts that are predominantly 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’s evidence-based funding criteria.

Last month, IDPH expanded covidSHIELD testing to middle and high schools across Illinois outside the city of Chicago.

IDPH is utilizing federal funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan to offer the rapid results testing.  The effort is part of the $225 million agreement between the University of Illinois System and the state aimed at proactively identifying asymptomatic individuals to prevent spread of COVID-19.

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