Illinois Department of Public Health Expands Free COVID-19 Testing to All K-12 Public Schools in Illinois

To help ensure schools can more safely resume in-person learning, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced it is expanding access to free COVID-19 testing to all K-12 public schools across Illinois outside of Chicago which received its own federal funding.  Schools can choose to utilize the SHIELD Illinois saliva-based test developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which is able to detect SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic individuals. As an alternative to quarantine, students and teachers who have been identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case now have the option of a Test-to-Stay protocol.  Close contacts must be tested on days 1, 3, 5, and 7 after exposure.  As long as close contacts remain negative, they are not required to quarantine.  Close contacts are only eligible for Test-to-Stay if their school requires universal indoor masking of all individuals (age 2 and older), regardless of vaccination status, and both the close contact and infected individual were wearing masks at the time of exposure.  IDPH encourages all schools to implement weekly testing of their unvaccinated students and staff.  Schools that implement weekly testing will be prioritized for Test-to-Stay and outbreak testing when required. Previously, SHIELD Illinois tests were offered to schools in predominantly low-income communities that have experienced high rates of COVID-19 infection at no-cost.  Thanks to additional funding from the federal CARES Act and American Rescue Plan, IDPH has the ability to expand free testing to all K-12 schools outside of Chicago.  The classification of low-income school districts is determined by the Illinois State Board of Education’s evidence-based funding criteria. Schools looking for more information on testing or to sign up for SHIELD Illinois testing can contact Beth Heller at your use is a video showing two ways that schools are collecting saliva samples and a still photo.)

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