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NCSA, Illinois Campus Cluster Aid Research on Early COVID Mitigations

A UIUC student in an orange t-shirt and blue face mask holding a test tube with blue liquid.

The SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell program combined frequent saliva tests with modeling and an app to keep the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus and surrounding community safe when on-campus operations resumed in fall 2020. Photo by Fred Zwicky

In a journal paper published in “Nature Communications,” researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign utilized the Illinois Campus Cluster in its work examining the impact of mitigations and strategies developed by the SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell program and implemented for the Fall 2020 academic semester during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ICC is a computing resource operated by the Illinois Campus Cluster Program in conjunction with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Members of NCSA were involved in many facets of UIUC’s COVID response and research, including the modeling of highly vulnerable campus areas, the secure storage of HIPAA-related data, standing up the smartphone app that aided in contact tracing and building a laboratory information management system for Shield T3 and SHIELD Illinois.

NCSA has always been made up of technical folks that are motivated by impact and making a difference. As such, a number of us stepped forward when our campus approached us to help with the SHIELD effort that would not only protect our campus but also our community.

Kenton McHenry, NCSA associate director for software

UIUC performed more than 1 million covidSHIELD tests, maintained low positivity rates and had zero COVID-19-related hospitalizations or deaths amongst the university community during the Fall 2020 semester.

“We were able to rally together and keep the university open safely. We stayed open, and we didn’t cause increased deaths within our community, and therefore showed others that it was possible,” said SHIELD team member Dr. Martin D. Burke, a professor of chemistry at UIUC and a member of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. “This is Illinois at its best. This paper hopefully will be a useful resource for other groups and communities to confidently play offense when it comes to the next pandemic.”

Read more about the paper and the SHIELD program here.

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