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ISU testing at center of federal debate

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NORMAL (WEEK) - A coronavirus testing crunch left Illinois State University in the lurch this fall.

ISU leaders thought they had plenty of COVID-19 testing materials all lined up, until the Dept. of Health and Human Services re-directed them. Now, one Illinois senator is stepping in.

"It really reflects the lack of planning ahead of time," Sen. Dick Durbin said.

Many tests that were intended for ISU were actually sent to nursing homes.

"And that's clearly a high priority, we don't question that," Sen. Durbin said.

But what Sen. Dick Durbin does question is why there was no national strategy for the corona virus, ensuring testing for all.

"If it had, the testing would have been accessible, for schools, hospitals, nursing homes, businesses large and small and city health departments," Sen. Durbin said.

ISU spokesperson Eric Jome says the university was relying on those tests for fast results.

"Certainly, it was disappointing not to be able to get those pieces of equipment because we did want to have those in house to be able to do quicker testing and turn those results around a little bit faster," Jome said.

And once ISU learned they had lost those materials, the board of trustee's had to act fast. The approved spending 3.3 million on testing, using general revenue funds, and available federal and state grants.

"We have symptomatic testing that goes on at our student health services. We have two asymptomatic testing sites on campus, and the last couple of days we've had at our alumni center a mobile testing site," Jome said.

While the campus has figured out other means to test students and faculty, Jome says ISU appreciates the senator's efforts.

"This is very important to campus operations, not only here at Illinois State, but all universities across the state, so having him bring this to a wider attention, we certainly appreciate it," Jome said.

Sen. Dick Durbin says he sent a letter to the secretary of HHS asking how they plan to get testing kits to schools from here on out.

Gabi Guerrero

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