The Illinois Department of Public Health has added a partner to enhance and expand K-12 schools COVID-19 testing.
To help increase capacity and facilitate faster access to COVID-19 testing in schools across the state, IDPH says it is partnering with the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Midwest COVID-19 Testing Coordination Center, known as MCC. IDPH is hoping to provide testing to all public and private schools that are now seeking to establish or expedite the onboarding of a testing program. The partnership will also allow IDPH to tap into additional federal funding under the HHS “Operation Expanded Testing” program.
The Biden Administration’s MCC covers 16 states and is managed by Battelle, a Columbus, Ohio-based non-profit research and development company.
Starting in April, IDPH announced 75% of Illinois public school districts outside of Chicago were eligible for free testing through SHIELD Illinois. All public and private schools outside of Chicago became eligible for free testing in July. SHIELD Illinois now has testing agreements with more than 400 school entities — more than 300 public school districts and more than 100 private schools. Those public districts represent more than 1,700 schools and more than 1 million public school students and staff outside of Chicago. However, more than 70% of SHIELD districts signed up after August 1st, resulting in a surge in demand that has lengthened the time it takes schools to complete their onboarding steps.
In recent weeks, SHIELD Illinois has taken other steps to speed up the onboarding process: launching a dashboard to bring greater transparency so schools can better monitor their status, adding regional drop-off locations to reduce transportation time to labs, and hiring additional staff to assist schools with onboarding and testing.
According to IDPH, schools will follow MCC’s self-collection protocol and ship the samples to a member of MCC’s lab network. Shipping is covered by MCC and SHIELD Illinois. They will reimburse districts $8 per test to cover the cost for schools to collect samples and implement a testing program.
SHIELD Illinois has performed more than 1 million tests at schools, universities, colleges, community colleges, and businesses statewide. Schools looking for more information or to sign up for MCC testing testedandprotected.org.