North Central College adopting SHIELD Illinois testing program

North Central College is revamping its COVID-19 testing strategy for the spring semester thanks to a new partnership with SHIELD Illinois.

Created by researchers at the University of Illinois last year, the saliva-based testing program will allow the Naperville campus to ramp up the number of diagnostic tests administered each week and more quickly identify and isolate positive cases, said Dr. Marci Swede, dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences.

All students commuting to or living on campus also will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before returning to North Central.

The COVID-19 testing landscape has evolved since last summer when North Central developed a nasal swab surveillance testing model to help monitor pandemic conditions through the fall semester, Swede said. SHIELD Illinois offers a faster, more efficient and less invasive process to better track new cases and the effectiveness of the campus' mitigation strategies, she said.

A 24-hour turnaround time on results "allows us to move more quickly and respond to any potential surges that might be happening on campus," Swede said. "We're able to dramatically increase our capacity for testing and be as flexible as we need to be."

The surveillance testing program is mandatory for students, faculty and staff members who come to campus for any length of time, North Central leaders said. Each week, the college is expected to test a sampling of campus community members, who will be notified by email and asked to schedule a testing appointment through their new MySHIELDIllinois account.

Certain individuals are chosen to be screened weekly, including student athletes, graduate students in health professional programs, and campus security members, among others, Swede said. Exemptions are available for anyone who has an approved medical reason or who tested positive for the virus in the past 90 days.

The spring semester started Monday for graduate students and begins Jan. 25 for undergraduate students, all of whom must submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the week before returning to campus, according to the college's COVID-19 Institutional Response Team.

On-campus testing opportunities are available next week for undergraduate students who are otherwise unable to obtain a COVID-19 test, though they will not be allowed to stay on campus while awaiting their results, officials said.

The college has created a new noncompliance reporting form and updated its sanctioning guidelines for anyone who violates COVID-19 policies, such as not wearing a mask, failing to participate in mandatory testing, attending or hosting a party, or not adhering to quarantine or isolation procedures. Penalties range from a written warning to a $200 fine and possible suspension or dismissal from campus.

North Central College will require students and staff members on campus to participate in a new COVID-19 testing program this semester through a partnership with SHIELD Illinois, a saliva-based diagnostic test developed by the University of Illinois. Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois
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