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CDC endorses Test to Stay strategy piloted by IDPH, SHIELD Illinois

URBANA — A new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report published today confirms that the Test to Stay program can help keep students in kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) in the classroom during the pandemic. As a result of the report, the CDC endorsed Test to Stay as a useful strategy to be implemented in schools.

Test to Stay, created locally by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and operated by the University of Illinois System’s SHIELD Illinois, allows unvaccinated individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 while at school and masked to remain in school and participate in school-related activities as long as they don’t have symptoms, wear a mask and undergo testing on days 1, 3, 5 and 7 after exposure.

IDPH and SHIELD Illinois joined forces to help schools implement Test to Stay. The SHIELD Illinois saliva-based PCR test developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) detects SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in symptomatic, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, with results in less than 24 hours. More than 100 school districts across the state are implementing Test to Stay using SHIELD Illinois to test once a week and rapid antigen testing.

SHIELD Illinois reduces schools’ administrative burden by handling sample collection and transportation, or paying schools $8 per test if they collect and transport samples themselves. In addition, SHIELD Illinois provides infrastructure for the Test to Stay program through physician’s orders, CLIA certifications and waivers, and automated data entry. With a scan of a barcode, results are sent directly to health departments.

The CDC sent a team to Illinois and worked with state and local health officials to look at the implementation of Test to Stay, conduct surveillance for cases, assess secondary transmission of the virus among schools participating in Test to Stay, compare those secondary transmission data among schools implementing different quarantine strategies, and analyze COVID-19 school data from districts across the state.

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