The University of Illinois implemented an aggressive testing campaign to reign in the spread of Covid-19. The operation involves testing the entire student body and faculty twice per week—around fifteen thousand tests each day. Students tested positive are alerted and quarantined while the school grants building and facilities access to those who test negative. This testing regime illustrates how to conduct a nationwide testing campaign to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.
The saliva based tests used by the school were developed by a university research team. Tests are free and are available at 17 on campus testing centers. Students are typically alerted of their test results within five hours of administration. Tests are being processed 24 hours a day on weekdays and nearly all day on weekends.
If a student or faculty member tests positive, they receive an alert immediately and must quarantine immediately. Additionally, the University allows students to enable bluetooth settings to track if they have been in close contact with a recently confirmed positive case. Those students are alerted and required to test immediately. A University app tied to student IDs moderates the whole process. This app also acts as a key to give negative students access to campus buildings and resources.
How are these advances applicable to a nationwide project? It first shows that wide scale testing protocols are possible and effective. In a recent CNN article, I wrote about a testing plan to contain Covid-19. This plan includes testing the entire US population every three days, or about one hundred million tests per day. Simulations of this plan suggest eighty percent cuts in transmission.
The University of Illinois is seeing similar results in its reduction of transmission. After students returned to campus, positivity