MHS becomes testing site using covidSHIELD saliva-based virus test

Vial used for the covidSHIELD saliva-based RT-PCR test.

MENDOTA – The general public now will have a quicker and highly efficient way of getting a COVID-19 test thanks to MHS partnering with SHIELD Illinois, and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

SHIELD Illinois utilizes the covidSHIELD saliva-based RT-PCR test that is easy to administer, highly accurate and delivers results in 24 hours or less. The test was developed by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and helped the university operate safely in-person during the 2020-21 academic year.

Mendota High School is currently administering the test to its students and staff, and is able to test about 345 individuals once a week.

MHS and SHIELD Illinois are now expanding their capabilities and offering community testing to the general public beginning Friday, Nov. 19. Testing is free, open to the public, and will be held every Friday from 9-10:30 a.m., with the exception of Nov. 26 because the school is closed for Thanksgiving break. Please enter through the auditorium doors. Use the following website and agency code to register for an appointment:  Portal.shieldillinois.com; Agency Code: df5brbrj. Additional instructions for creating your patient portal can be found at: https://uofi.app.box.com/s/hw26vd3862oa33t16f7cbcfg8m26oz2t. Instructions for creating a dependent portal can be found at: https://uofi.app.box.com/s/bcc6i9ie1bjitdn4iaarpzva5zq14k23

The tests are for people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, who have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or simply if someone just wants to be tested. The general public will be confined to the auditorium foyer and kept separate from the MHS student and staff population.

Jeff Prusator, MHS superintendent, said the District Board of Education mandated that everyone participating in extracurricular activities get tested for COVID-19 weekly. And well over 100 students who are not in extracurriculars are being tested because their parents wanted them to, he said.

“The kids have been remarkable and very receptive to the testing,” said Prusator. He said the school tests about 30 students at a time in 10-minute blocks and the results are available from the lab within 24 hours. A third-party provider, MedCall, does the testing and delivers them to labs at various locations in Illinois.

Prusator said not all parents were happy with the Board’s testing mandate, but MHS made a decision to be proactive and do whatever it could to keep the students on the field and healthy at school, and also keep their parents and loved one’s safe.

“This has done exactly what we intended for it to do,” said Prusator. “Without testing, a student who tests positive could get on a bus and possibly infect other people.”

“It’s a great reassurance for the teams and the parents, and now for our community” added Sheri McConville, District 280 nurse. “This testing procedure comes in very handy for the parents.”

In a recent clinical study, covidSHIELD achieved a sensitivity of 96% and a specificity of 99%, meaning it is a highly accurate test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2. CovidSHIELD is a PCR test, the gold standard of tests for detecting the virus.

Although vaccines are readily available, herd immunity to the virus isn’t likely to happen in 2021. Even though vaccines are recommended, no vaccine is 100% effective.

So far, MHS has had very good testing results. A total of 5,323 tests have been administered. Four have been positive, 86 have been rejected for various reasons, and 5,233 have been negative, which is a .076% positivity rate.

Testing Practices

How does testing process work?

The test is self-administered and non-invasive. After checking in with a collection site staff member, a patient receives a small vial and must deposit a small amount of saliva into that vial. The patient then places the vial in a collection rack and exits the collection site.

How much saliva does a person need to produce for a covidSHIELD test?

They will need to provide around 2mL of saliva (not bubbles) for the sample to be processed correctly (the vials used will often have a marking noting how much saliva is needed).

What rules should I follow prior to being tested?

You should not eat, drink or put anything in your mouth one hour prior to taking the covidSHIELD test. This includes smoking, drinking, chewing gum, using mouth wash, etc.

Is there anything else I should do before taking the covidSHIELD test?

Drink lots of water and if you are able, brush your teeth one hour prior to the test.

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