Thursday, December 31, 2020

Springfield firefighters to soon get access to U of I's saliva-based, rapid COVID-19 testing program

The Springfield Fire Department, nearly two months after a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined more than one-third of its force, will soon have access to once-a-week rapid virus testing through the University of Illinois.

The city is authorized to spend up to $100,000 on the testing program, though most expect the actual number to be far below that. The program will likely be covered with either federal or state COVID-19 relief funds.

It comes about two months after the department was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak that, at its height, quarantined 73 firefighters, including 19 who tested positive for the virus.

The rapid, saliva-based test was developed by the University of Illinois, which has been administering them with emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration since mid-August.

University officials say the rapid testing has allowed them to keep classrooms open for students while keeping the virus at bay. Positivity rates on all three campuses have been much lower than that of their surrounding communities.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on December 30, 2020.