UI waits for FDA approval to spread testing to community

Student+Shaina+Lohman+signs+into+the+University+COVID-19+testing+site+located+in+State+Farm+Center+on+Oct.+8.

Cameron Krasucki

Student Shaina Lohman signs into the University COVID-19 testing site located in State Farm Center on Oct. 8.

By Aliza Majid, Staff Writer

The saliva-based COVID-19 test was created by UI researchers and has made a great impact on the testing process on campus, but that isn’t the same for the Champaign-Urbana residents. The C-U community does not have access to the state of the art saliva-based testing and has to rely on the nasal swab testing instead. 

“We will be able to offer the test outside of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus once we receive emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA,” said Ben Taylor, the spokesperson for Shield Illinois.

The University claimed to have the authorization in mid-August, but sometime during the month of September, a change was made in the press release and the campus backtracked on their statement without announcing it to the public, according to Illinois Newsroom.  

The saliva-based testing is only available to U of I students, faculty and staff since the test was developed on campus and was approved for on-campus testing by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certified lab director. 

The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments regulates federal standards U.S. facilities have to abide by in order to test humans for health assessments or diagnose a disease. 

During a September UI senate meeting, Chancellor Robert Jones said spreading the saliva tests to Champaign-Urbana was a top priority for the University. 

“Its first major deployment should be to serve the community. K–12 education: We’ve had two meetings with the superintendents of the school districts, and we will be looking at a way to make it available to the general public,” Jones said.

This rapid testing program has allowed the University to regulate COVID-19 on campus and ensure that the virus is monitored at all times, but this brings in the question of how the rest of the Champaign-Urbana community is coping with the virus.

Meghan McDonald, a Champaign resident, has expressed her concern with the University’s saliva-testing restrictions and the effect it has on the public.

“The issue I’ve had with testing is the fact that U of I has such innovative quick results testing and that they are not sharing that with the general public,” McDonald said.

The Market Place Shopping Center is the main COVID-19 testing site available in Champaign, conducting around 900 tests a a day, but it isn’t accessible to everyone because it’s off of the interstate and some do not have access to proper transportation, McDonald said. 

“A lot of this town runs off the MTD, and a month ago a bus driver tested positive for COVID and caused a lot of hesitance and fear to ride the bus,” McDonald said.

Other locations residents may want to visit if they do not have a doctor’s referral are CampusTown Urgent Care, OSF Urgo, Walgreens, Promise Healthcare and CVS. 

Many C-U residents are struggling to survive this virus and maintain their daily lives due to the limited amount of testing sites available to them compared to those who attend the University.

The Shield program is currently working on receiving the FDA EUA in order to expand their services nation-wide.

“We are working with organizations throughout Champaign-Urbana to provide access to our saliva-based testing once we receive the FDA EUA,” Taylor said.

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