ISU Random Coronavirus Testing To Cost Up To $3.3 Million | WGLT

ISU Random Coronavirus Testing To Cost Up To $3.3 Million

Aug 10, 2020

The Illinois State University administration has asked the board of trustees to approve spending up to $3.3 million for coronavirus surveillance testing of students on campus through the end of the year.

Trustees will consider the proposal at a special meeting on Wednesday. The cost per test would be $110.

The university said it anticipates conducting about 1,500 tests each week through Pekin-based Reditus Labs that said it provides capacity to test up to 500 per day. Testing will be completed at multiple on-campus locations, if approved by the board.

“The exact number of tests conducted each week will vary based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the campus population and potential surges on-campus,” said staff in materials prepared for trustees.

Health experts have said surveillance testing is useful to detect transmission hot spots, or better define disease trends.

Provost Aondover Tarhule told WGLT last week the goal is to test 3% of the student population on a regular basis. That would be about 600 students from a regular-year student census of about 20,000 people. 

“Leading research has recommended that colleges and universities conduct surveillance testing of student populations who may have COVID-19, but may be asymptomatic as a means of mitigating potential outbreaks of COVID-19 on-campus,” staff has told the board.

The surveillance testing is separate from testing of people who have COVID-like symptoms. ISU has signed separate agreements for that kind of testing with both Reditus and Carle BroMenn Medical Center. The cost for that agreement through Student Health Services on campus is not to exceed $500,000 and results are due back within two days, a shorter time frame than some of the tests administered at the Reditus site at the Interstate Center in Bloomingon.

A university spokesperson said the method to determine who will receive the random tests and the locations of the testing sites is still in process.

ISU administrators said they would use General Revenue Funds, and available federal and state grants to pay for the testing.

The university also has  pursued other avenues for testing such as a potential partnership with the University of Illinois on its new saliva-based COVID-19 testing methodology. Tarhule said Aug. 4 that such a partnership cannot happen unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the U of I test for use away from the Urbana campus. The price per test for the U of I method is far lower, about $2.

Health experts have broadly said saliva-based tests are less accurate than other forms, but the ability to rapidly test people and get results back in a matter of minutes or hours and then retest to eliminate false positives may outweigh the public health benefit from a more accurate test that takes days to turn around.

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