An Update on UIS COVID-19 SHIELD Testing

The UIS Journal is dedicated to keeping students up-to-date on information pertaining to safety during these tumultuous times. The Journal has reached out to Dr. Bethany Bilyeu, head of the COVID-19 SHIELD testing service for our Springfield campus, for comment on specific questions students have been asking regarding testing issues and updates. These are her answers:

 

How / why did you become the head of the COVID-19 SHIELD testing for employees and students?

In my role as Executive Director of Student Support Services, one of the departments I oversee is Health Services. I took on the role to help ensure that the staff in Health Services could continue to put students first. This role requires lots in the way of time, energy, and patience and I was in the best position to provide them.

 

Why have there been so many inconclusive results and long wait times on our SHIELD testing? Do you know a ballpark figure of those who had to be retested due to these errors?

There have been a few different issues that have caused increased wait times and inconclusive test results.

The COVID-19 computer program was originally built with an automated process that an open lab order would change to inconclusive after 48 hours. Due to an unexpected high volume of samples collected over a few days, this automated process was enacted. So lots of people ended up receiving a message that their test was inconclusive. That automated process has been removed from the UIS program. Since everyone gets tested weekly, it’s hard to give a ballpark on how many had to be retested due to the inconclusive. Many people waited until their next set testing time but many also went to be retested that same week.

We have seen longer than expected wait times for results due to the high volume of samples the lab is processing. UIS and the UIUC lab continue to collaborate to find better ways to make the process more efficient.

 

Could you disclose the amount of students found positive with the virus on the UIS campus since we began our Fall 2020 semester? No names, just a figure.

In order to protect privacy, we have not broken out the count between students and employees. We continue to explore ways to provide transparency and privacy.

 

There is news that there will be a SHIELD lab installed here on the UIS campus, rather than sending our tests to Champaign. Do you know where this lab will be located and who will be conducting the tests?  How much will this impact our wait time for results?

There are plans for a lab in Springfield but not necessarily on the UIS campus at this time. UIS will be partnering with SHIELD and Springfield community members to bring the lab to life. The plan will be to utilize the Springfield lab once it’s up and running. We are likely still several weeks away from that time. We are hopeful that by using the Springfield lab that will shorten wait times but it’s hard to know the extent of that impact now.

 

Is there any other information you would like to share with the UIS student body regarding SHIELD testing or COVID-19 prevention?

Fall and Winter are approaching and that means flu season. It may be more important than ever to focus on the basics of properly wearing a mask, handwashing, and being physically distant (6 feet) from others. These are the things that can stop the spread of illness.

Get a flu vaccine.

Even though we have had a few challenges with SHIELD testing, overall our numbers remain relatively low.

Be patient with yourself and others. Show grace and kindness during these uncertain times.

Remember to reach out to support services, (Counseling Center, Health Service, Diversity Center, Women’s Center, Gender and Sexuality Student Services, Office of Disability Services) if you or someone you know is struggling.

Keep your mind and body active. There’s great programming being offered at TRAC and the STU.