IDPH to make COVID-19 tests available to elementary schools

(The Center Square) – Elementary school students could soon be taking another kind of test at school.

Students will soon be eligible for COVID-19 testing, joining middle schools and high schools throughout the state in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is using funds from the CARES Act to pay for the rapid result saliva tests for students grades kindergarten through grade 5.

Ben Taylor, who is the director for economic development for SHIELD Illinois, said based on the state’s evidence-based funding formula, 75 percent of school districts won’t pay for the testing, while other districts will get tests for $10.

“These are the federal funds from the last two stimulus plans that will provide testing, those were transferred over to the Illinois Department of Public Health and will be used in schools,” Taylor said.

The COVID-19 test that the schools will be using is called covidSHEILD, which is a long tube with a funnel for students to spit into before school. The tests are then sent to one of the six state labs the IDPH has and can return results within 24 hours.

Taylor also said that due to the quick testing process and the fact that this will most likely be a one-test-a-week system, students will not miss much classroom time.

“How many tests given is up to the school district, IDPH will pay for 2 tests a week but a lot of them are opting for one once a week. Once a week is a good level of protection and keeps kids in the classroom,” he said.

The IDPH will be using federal funds from the CARES Act and the American Rescue plan to offer the testing.

The effort is part of the $225 million agreement between the University of Illinois System and the state aimed at identifying asymptomatic students to prevent the spread of the virus.

“I am pleased to see the protective screen that our covidSHIELD test-and-trace system provides being extended now to elementary schools around Illinois,” University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen said in a statement. “Providing this kind of service to the state is at the heart of our land-grant mission.”

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