SHIELD Illinois opened two additional free community testing sites in Chicago this month, bringing its total number of locations statewide to 44. The sites are located at Northeastern Illinois University’s locations in the Bronzeville and El Centro neighborhoods. These newly opened community sites increase access to COVID testing in underserved communities.
SHIELD Illinois provides free, on-demand PCR saliva tests at community sites in addition to weekly screening testing at schools, businesses and government agencies. As the University of Illinois System’s non-profit, in-state COVID-testing unit, SHIELD Illinois crossed the six-million-test threshold earlier this month. An interactive map of SHIELD Illinois’ free public testing sites is at https://shieldillinois.com/get-tested/.
“It is critical that we stay vigilant and ensure free testing is available to the people of Illinois, as surges continue to occur,” said SHIELD Illinois Managing Director Ron Watkins. “We’re proud to be expanding; it’s part of our job to help people who can’t afford to pay for tests.”
Since its launch in 2021, SHIELD Illinois has helped control the spread of COVID-19 across the state; enabled K-12 schools, universities and community colleges to remain open; protected workplaces and saved lives.
“SHIELD Illinois’ work is incredibly valuable because testing is still the best way to stop the chain of transmission in families and communities,” said Prof. Rebecca Lee Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “If you don’t have access to a test, it will be harder to get treatment and to isolate effectively.”
Through its partnerships with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Midwest Coordination Center, SHIELD Illinois is opening these new testing sites:
NEIU - El Centro, 3309 N. Avondale Ave., Chicago
NEIU - Bronzeville, 700 E. Oakwood Blvd., Chicago
So far this year, SHIELD Illinois has opened 18 sites across Illinois, from the Cass County Health Department in western Illinois to FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport near the Wisconsin border to Governors State University in suburban University Park and Venice’s NAACP Madison Branch in southwestern Illinois.
Testing at the SHIELD Illinois community sites is paid for with federal funds from the CARES Act, American Rescue Plan and Operation Expanded Testing. Partnerships with IDPH, CDPH and the Midwest Coordination Center enable distribution of the federal funds.
SHIELD Illinois provides testing for about 1 million students and staff in K-12 schools; 57 community colleges and universities; the 44 community testing sites; numerous businesses, such as Rivian and ADM; and government agencies, including the Illinois General Assembly and the U.S. District Court of the Northern District.
The covidSHIELD test was developed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is able to detect the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19, including the Delta and Omicron variants. The saliva-based process has been shown to detect the virus even before symptoms appear.