Free COVID-19 testing offered on campus to students, staff, faculty

Chancellor Robert Jones submits his COVID-19 test Tuesday morning.

Samantha Boyle

Chancellor Robert Jones submits his COVID-19 test Tuesday morning. "It’s really kind of gratifying because it’s absolutely key in our effort to try to return to face-to-face instruction," he said.

Free testing sites for COVID-19 opened on campus Wednesday morning. Sites are available to all students, staff and faculty for free at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center and State Farm Center. 

The testing sites were developed by the University’s COVID-19 SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell team. Martin Burke, chair of the SHIELD team said this is a quicker and more effective way to test. 

In order to get tested, participants line up socially distanced and masked outside of a large, open tent and wait to register with their iCard or the Rokwire application developed by University scientists and entrepreneurs. Then, participants will submit at least one milliliter of saliva into a test tube and place it into a bag and hand it off to a site worker. Results can be expected via email or Rokwire in about 24 hours. 

Martin Burke, associate dean for research at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and chair of the COVID-19 SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell team, talks to members of the media at the COVID-19 testing site Tuesday morning. (Samantha Boyle)

“We all know the issue around asymptomatic spread or presymptomatic spread and the window of time it takes you to learn if you are positive or not, it could potentially spread the disease,” Burke said. “So the really good thing here is you get the results really fast and then individuals can make decisions to protect themselves and the community much more effectively by giving the results quicker.” 

Additionally, one should avoid eating, brushing teeth, using mouthwash or using tobacco for 30 minutes before getting tested. 

All employees are able to get tested during their scheduled work hours without losing pay, a Massmail sent Wednesday morning said.

Only two testing sites are currently open; however, the University plans to have more than a dozen open by August, according to the Massmail. 

“It’s really kind of gratifying because it’s absolutely key in our effort to try to return to face-to-face instruction and it’s exciting in many ways to see these testing efforts unfold because it is one of the preconditions for us safely returning to face-to-face instruction,” Chancellor Robert Jones said after getting tested Tuesday. 

Jones said the University believes that face-to-face instruction is best and wants students to know they want on-campus instruction to return with their safety in the forefront of every decision.  The on-campus testing also reassures the surrounding community that their safety is considered as well and that the pandemic is being taken seriously. 

“We don’t live in isolation here at this great University, even though we’re anchored as the largest entity in this community, we exist and coexist with each other,” Jones said. “When it affects one it affects all. So that’s why this is an effort that’s critically important not only to the University but to the entire community. And for our students and their families to feel a sense of safety that we’re taking this as seriously as possible.” 

He added the University is looking forward to having thousands of students participate in the testing as one of the critical phases of their work. Students are also encouraged to take necessary precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19.  

“The most important thing is we need to rally together as a community, everyone needs to wear their masks, stay socially distanced and wash our hands,” Burke said. “It’s the simple things we’re all doing to protect ourselves but honestly to protect everyone else around us. So, if we all team up together as a community this is going to make a huge difference.” 

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