With vaccine mandate looming, a whole bunch of faculty districts tapping into COVID testing program

With Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for educators in impact Sunday, it’s anticipated COVID-19 testing will enhance and a few are calling for added oversight of the testing program and the cash spent on it.

Pritzker’s vaccine mandate for well being care employees, school college students and educators from Pre-Okay by school, says these that may’t or received’t take the vaccine should undergo weekly testing. For Okay-12 faculties, a $235 million program supplies the U of I’s SHIELD exams without charge to the district.

“Within the five-week interval since Aug. 15, SHIELD Illinois has performed roughly 133,000 exams for public Okay-12 faculties and 24,000 exams for private Okay-12 faculties in Illinois,” stated SHIELD Illinois advertising and marketing and communications lead Ben Taylor.

The exams price $35 every. As much as $10 of that would go to a third-party contractor that collects and delivers the take a look at from the varsity to a lab. The charges are invoiced by SHIELD Illinois to the Illinois Division of Public well being based mostly on the take a look at depend without charge to the varsity.

IDPH stated 449 college districts have signed up with SHIELD and 94 are at the moment utilizing this system. Round 100 different districts are anticipated to launch within the subsequent two weeks.

“The remaining faculties are going by the onboarding course of and we’re working with SHIELD to get them on-line as rapidly as doable,” IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold stated.

“Final April, earlier than the tip of the varsity yr, the state started encouraging faculties to join SHIELD testing,” Arnold stated. “Sadly, many faculties have waited till now to enroll – roughly 38% signed up after Aug. 24, 2021.”

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Calling the testing program a “catastrophe,” state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, was crucial of its rollout, particularly with the governor’s vaccine mandate for educators looming.

“And so they simply wait till it’s previous the purpose of no return to begin determining the logistics,” Rose stated. “You possibly can’t scale up four- or five-hundred college districts in two weeks. It’s not possible.”

A spokesperson for SHIELD Illinois stated they’re prepared for the elevated demand.

“With 114 extra public college districts and 45 extra private faculties scheduled to launch testing within the subsequent two weeks, and a further 84 public and 23 private within the three weeks after that (by Oct. 29), we anticipate and are ready for a continued enhance in testing volumes,” Taylor stated.

Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski stated taxpayers are nonetheless footing the invoice and oversight is required.

“You’ve bought to marvel, is anyone enriching themselves, is there any corruption, is there fraud?” Dabrowski stated. “I’m hopeful this authorities can determine it out, however I’m skeptical.”

Rose, who’s on the Legislative Audit Fee, wasn’t certain how oversight would occur.

“I imply, yeah, there’s going to be oversight, however oversight of what?” Rose stated. “The goofballs that didn’t anticipate what was simply anticipatable?”

Thus far, SHIELD Illinois says it has carried out greater than 826,000 whole exams throughout all organizations, with a whole bunch of agreements with public and private faculties.

“As a non-profit unit of the College of Illinois System, SHIELD Illinois operates on a cost-recovery foundation, solely in pursuit of our mandate as a land-grant establishment to make use of our assets and capabilities for the general public good,” Taylor stated. “As a part of this mission, we proceed to search for methods to additional cut back the per-test price to the state and prolong much more testing to our fellow residents.”

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A U of I-related firm referred to as SHIELD T3 contracts with out-of-state organizations to offer the SHIELD testing companies.

In response to questions on what number of exams have been carried out, a spokesperson stated the corporate “is concentrated on distributing the revolutionary saliva-based take a look at outdoors of Illinois,” and “has run roughly 1.3 million exams thus far.”

“We don’t launch income numbers,” stated SHIELD T3 spokesperson Melissa Harris.

There are completely different taxpayer-funded testing applications utilized by non-public faculties all through the state, and different applications within the metropolis of Chicago and Prepare dinner County.

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