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COVID-19 Testing At UIS Begins In Prep For Fall Classes

University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield is requiring weekly screening of COVID-19 for students, faculty and staff who regularly go to campus. The university is offering a saliva test developed by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, named SHIELD Testing.

Last week, 155 people were tested on the first day the saliva screen was available, according to a university spokesman.

Testing is available Monday through Friday this week at the Public Affairs Center and the The Recreation and Athletic Center in preparation for fall classes to begin next Monday. University leaders say they’re expecting about a quarter of students to be on campus any given day, as many classes this semester will be taught remotely.

Bethany Bilyeu – who oversees testing – said it’s fast, free of charge and easy. But those tested should not eat or drink anything, even water, 30 minutes before testing.

“We’ve tried to remove any barrier,” said Bilyeu, executive director of student support services. “So people really feel like this is an option for them, and that it's convenient. And hopefully, we'll just all get in a routine of coming down once a week and it just becomes part of what we do here.”

Students and staff who aren’t regularly going to UIS don’t need to get tested weekly – only when they plan to be on campus. 

A lab at UIUC will analyze the samples and should have results back within 24 hours, Bilyeu said. Lack of supplies at the lab caused the UIS testing site to close early last week. But Bilyeu expects it to be staffed and prepared this week.

UIS reported one new on-campus COVID-19 case and one new off-campus case, last week. Since late June, the university reported nine total confirmed cases, four on-campus, five off-campus. The university will work with the Sangamon County Department of Public Health to do contact tracing for coronavirus cases.

Testing is part of the campus preparations for the fall semester. A quarter of UIS classes will have at least some in-person component this semester, according to numbers provided by the university.

Wearing a mask is required on campus, and classroom capacity has been adjusted to ensure the ability to social distance, said UIS Provost Dennis Papini.

“We believe we will be able to spread classes out to minimize the probability of creating crowded hallways. And of course, there is a fairly extensive testing process,” he said.

Students who registered for fall classes in the spring could have picked fully online or in-person. Papini said the administration worked with professors to determine if traditionally in-person classes should be remote, in-person, or a combination of the two. The university also surveyed students.

Based on those discussions and input, of 836 courses, 12% will be in-person, 13% a combination of on-campus and online, and the rest will be taught online. The university makes a distinction between remote – the 34% of classes that are usually in-person that will now be online – and online, the 42% of classes that are usually online.

Students can now check if their classes are remote, in-person, or a combination of the two.

Some labs, athletic training, music and other subjects needed to have face-to-face instruction, said Vickie Cook, executive director of online, professional, and engaged learning. Some professors are planning meetings with students asynchronously on campus, she said.

Cook said students should expect a much difference experience this fall compared to the spring, when classes were abruptly moved online mid-semester.

“Faculty have had an opportunity to actually plan to have remote learning opportunities and in the spring, no one had time to plan for those,” she said.

The university is also using a new platform for online classes – Canvas – which can be used on mobile devices, Cook said.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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