Panic, doubt and uncertainty encapsulated the first few months of the pandemic. Millions dashed to the shelf, bulldozing everything from the frozen food aisle to the necessity everyone took for granted: toilet paper. Despite the early commotion, no one could have predicted that COVID-19 would still be the grave issue that it is a year later.
In happier news, vaccine rollout has become more widespread. There are currently 21 COVID-19 vaccination sites in the Springfield area. Several organizations, especially in more vulnerable areas, continue to hold pop-up drives to boost numbers. It is clear that officials learned from their mistakes with testing. At this point in 2020, just a few testing sites in Sangamon County were open to the public. This caused long wait times and days before any notice of diagnosis. The University of Illinois saw this congestion and took action.
In an effort to promote safety throughout the University of Illinois system, researchers at the Urbana-Champaign campus developed a much quicker saliva-based test. The saliva test costs just a fraction of that of a nasal swab test, is much less invasive and, most importantly, it provides a 99% accuracy rate. Since the first set of tests were unveiled in August 2020, roughly 60,000 diagnoses have been given at UIS. The positivity rate has not hit the 1% mark since before the start of February 2021.
It is currently unknown how many UIS students have received the vaccine. Nonetheless, UIS Chancellor Karen Whitney stated, “it takes two full weeks after receiving the last dose of the vaccine before you are considered fully vaccinated.” Whitney goes on to say that those who follow this rule “are exempt from having to quarantine if exposed to a COVID positive individual.”
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus recently released a statement regarding COVID-19 testing this summer and into the fall. “In the future, the university plans to use an individual’s verified proof of being fully vaccinated to replace regular COVID-19 testing for compliance and building access.” Those who do not provide proof of vaccination will be required to follow current testing guidelines.
A special thanks to those who have organized and executed the UIS COVID-19 Prevention Plan: The UIS COVID-19 Rapid Response Team (CRRT), Chancellor Karen Whitney, Bethany Bilyeu, DeCarlos Jones, Harshi Perea, Rebecca Billo-Moler, Betsy O-Brien, Sherry Foote, and the dozens of others who have assisted with the testing site. Also, thank you to the researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for their timely and important work: Martin Burke, Paul Hergenrother, Timothy Fan, Fadi Alnaji, Christopher Brooke, Kelsie Green, Robin Holland, Diana Rose Ranoa and Leyi Wang.