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Ill. Dept. of Public Health expands free COVID-19 testing to all K-12 public schools

As long as close contacts remain negative, the Illinois Department of Public Health says they...
As long as close contacts remain negative, the Illinois Department of Public Health says they are not required to quarantine.(Ill. Dept. of Public Health)
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 3:23 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS) - The Illinois Department of Public Health announced it would make free COVID-19 testing available to all K-12 public schools across the state, outside of Chicago.

As an alternative to quarantine, students and teachers who were a close contact to a positive COVID-19 case now have the options of a Test-to-Stay protocol.

Close contacts must be tested on days 1, 3, 5 and 7 after exposure.

As long as close contacts remain negative, they are not required to quarantine.

“In-person learning is a priority and we want to make sure students, teachers, and staff are able to return to the classroom as safely as possible,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “With the surge in COVID-19 cases and Delta variant, the sooner we know if someone has been infected, the quicker we can take action to prevent the spread of the virus to others. Not only is testing the best way to identify these cases, it can also help keep kids in school with a new Test-to-Stay protocol. We encourage all school districts to take advantage of this free resource.”

According to IDPH, close contacts are only eligible for Test-to-Stay if their school requires universal indoor masking of all people (age 2 and older), regardless of vaccination status, and both the close contact and infected individual were wearing masks at the time of exposure.

IDPH encouraged all schools to implement weekly testing of their unvaccinated students and staff.

Schools that implement weekly testing will be prioritized for Test-to-Stay and outbreak testing when required.

Schools can choose to use the SHIELD Illinois saliva-based test developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which the health department said is able to find SARS-CoV-2 and its variants in symptomatic, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people.

Schools looking for more information on testing or to sign up for SHIELD Illinois testing can contact Beth Heller at bheller@uillinois.edu.

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