URBANA, Ill. — The University of Illinois system received emergency use authorization from the FDA to expand the use of covidSHIELD, the saliva-based COVID-19 test that has been used at U of I campuses, utilizing widespread testing and rapid results.
The test is 96 percent accurate, doesn’t have false positives and doesn’t require an uncomfortable, invasive nose swab. Instead it uses salvia to test for the presence of COVID-19 and the results are available within 24 hours, sometimes less.
Ron Watkins is the managing director for Shield Illinois.
“We can actually identify the virus anywhere from that second to that fourth day,” he said. “So we’re able to catch folks in the pre-carrier, pre symptomatic stage which allow us to quickly isolate and mitigate the virus before they can get others sick.”
Watkins said the test doesn’t require a healthcare professional to administer and it’s much cheaper than the current PCR tests, which averages between 90 to 100 dollars.
U of I says its salvia test costs between $20 and $30.
Rearchers at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana campus developed the test in 2020 and put it use in the fall as it welcomed students back.
“From the time after the student show up and the campus was able to quickly identify, isolate and mitigate the virus, we have been able to hold it under 1 percent the entire time,” Watkins said.
It has also kept the positivity rate in the surrounding community low as well.
“That combination of the easy to collect, the high accuracy test, the really fast reporting … is going to the local public health, as well as the individual immediately right out of the lab,” Watkins said. “You put that all together and it’s really that great package that makes it such an incredible test. And, as you said, a game changer.”
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced Monday he would dedicate $20 million in CARES Act funding to provide one million tests to Illinois’ other public universities under the FDA authorization.
The $20 million from the federal CARES Act will provide a million tests across the state’s 12 public universities and 48 community colleges, under an agreement between the Illinois Department of Public Health and the University of Illinois system.