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COVID-19 Testing Lab Coming To UIS

Campus entry signage
University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois’ COVID-19 testing program – SHIELD – plans to put a lab on the Springfield campus, an official with the program confirmed Thursday.

The lab would process saliva samples from UIS. Currently, a lab in Urbana analyzes samples from the two campuses and Greenville University. More than 18,000 samples were processed on Monday of this week, according to a professor from the SHIELD team.

“We’re going to be able to stand on our own… and serve our teaching and learning interests and serve the greater Springfield area,” UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney said on a virtual town hall Thursday.

A spokesman for the SHIELD program declined to give more details.

University researchers at Urbana-Champaign developed the saliva-based, rapid test that allows their campus to require twice-a-week testing for students, faculty and staff, and the Springfield campus to require once-a-week.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the test emergency authorization two weeks ago. Illinois Public Media reports other labs that have a federal designation – CLIA – can adopt the U of I’s test, but will have to show the FDA the tests are performed properly.

Illinois State University recently announced a partnership with SHIELD to establish a lab at its campus in Normal, WGLT reports.

While university officials predicted 24- to 48-hour turnaround time for results, many have reported longer wait times. Tim Fan, a professor veterinary medicine who is on the SHIELD team, explained the volume of samples coming into the lab was delaying the results. He said they are working on cutting response time by using robots and smaller collection containers.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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