Mitigation of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission at a Large Public University

Ranoa, D.R. et al., June 9, 2022. Nature Communications: 13: 3207.


In Fall 2020, universities saw extensive transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among their populations, threatening health of the university and surrounding communities, and viability of in-person instruction. Here we report a case study at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, where a multimodal “SHIELD: Target, Test, and Tell” program, with other nonpharmaceutical interventions, was employed to keep classrooms and laboratories open. The
program included epidemiological modeling and surveillance, fast/frequent testing using a novel low-cost and scalable saliva-based RT-qPCR assay for SARS-CoV-2 that bypasses RNA extraction, called covidSHIELD, and digital tools for communication and compliance. In Fall 2020, we performed >1,000,000 covidSHIELD tests, positivity rates remained low, we had zero COVID-19-related hospitalizations or deaths amongst our university community, and mortality in the surrounding Champaign County was reduced more than 4-fold relative to expected. This case study shows that fast/frequent testing and other interventions mitigated transmission of SARS-CoV-2 at a large public university.

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