SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Chapin Rose is calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to authorize the broad use of University of Illinois SHIELD testing for COVID-19 throughout the state.
Rose, R-Mahomet, said he and many constituents have become frustrated that the rapid saliva test developed at the UI and being used on campus still isn’t widely available elsewhere in the state to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
UI spokesman Tom Hardy said the university is in regular contact with the governor.
“As the land-grant university, we are working hard to be able to expand our successful SHIELD Illinois COVID-19 testing throughout the state of Illinois,” Hardy said. “We are in direct and regular consultation with the governor and his expert team on the fastest path to achieve this goal.”
The university has been waiting on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to award an emergency-use authorization for the SHIELD testing program, but, Rose said, the FDA isn’t the only avenue to expand this testing off campus.
The governor could also authorize SHIELD testing within Illinois as long as tests are analyzed in certified labs, Rose said.
“Governor, the entire state is waiting on the expansion of SHIELD testing and the promise it brings to reduce the loss of life from this virus,” Rose wrote to Pritzker in a letter dated Tuesday. “Nursing homes, K-12, other public four-years and private industry could all benefit from the addition of the robust accurate and very quick testing regime that SHIELD offers.”
Rose also made reference to an FDA document for coronavirus disease tests dated May 11.
“A state or territory choosing to authorize laboratories within that state or territory to develop and perform a test for COVID-19 would do so under authority of its own state law and under a process that it establishes,” it states.
Rose said the local campus has been fortunate to have access to SHIELD testing for months now, and the positivity rate in Champaign County has remained among the lowest in the state.
“But there are 102 counties in Illinois,” he said.
The SHIELD program testing has the potential to substantially reduce cases in schools, long-term-care settings, factories and other locations, Rose said.
“Who wouldn’t want a four-hour rapid response test?” he asked.
Without counting UI tests, the 21-county Region 6 (which includes Champaign, Douglas, Ford, Piatt and Vermilion) had a seven-day average positivity rate of 9.1 percent Wednesday, with that rate for Champaign County alone at 6.8 percent.
With UI tests factored in, the seven-day positivity rate for the region was 5.1 percent and 1.9 percent for just Champaign County.
The state began removing UI testing results from Champaign County and Region 6 counts in October, saying the resulting data would give a more accurate picture of how COVID-19 was spreading throughout the region.