Illinois State University Moves Most Classes Online Because It Lacks Testing Kits

University leaders say the federal government took COVID-19 testing kits and equipment the university had ordered and sent them elsewhere.

ISU
Illinois State University says most classes will be online this fall. Courtesy of David Wilson / Flickr
ISU
Illinois State University says most classes will be online this fall. Courtesy of David Wilson / Flickr

Illinois State University Moves Most Classes Online Because It Lacks Testing Kits

University leaders say the federal government took COVID-19 testing kits and equipment the university had ordered and sent them elsewhere.

llinois State University is shifting more classes online this fall after the federal government reallocated COVID-19 equipment and testing kits they ordered elsewhere, university leaders said Tuesday. In a note to the campus community, they said the move is necessary because they anticipate testing supplies will be limited as novel coronavirus cases increase in the state and across the country.

“I realize that this decision, being made very close to the beginning of the fall semester, is not ideal,’ President Larry Dietz said in an update posted on ISU’s website. “However, this decision was based in science, guidance from public health officials, and takes into consideration the university’s current testing capabilities and other resources.”

Dietz said only courses in the sciences, arts and music will remain in-person or a hybrid form that mixes in-person and online. Students who show symptoms of the virus will be able to get tested through student health services. The university is in talks with external vendors to provide more on-campus testing for asymptomatic students and said the administration said it will provide more details to students, faculty and staff when it’s available.

ISU officials say they had ordered several thousand testing kits and three testing machines through a vendor but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stepped in and procured the supplies from the vendor and decided to send them elsewhere. An ISU spokesperson said the university did not have specifics on where the supplies were sent.

The shift comes as universities in Illinois reevaluate and announce additional steps to reduce the possible spread of the novel coronavirus on campus this fall. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign says students will be tested twice a week with their self-developed COVID-19 saliva test. Meanwhile, DePaul said it’s reevaluating its in-person course offerings given the recent increase in cases.

In response to this change, ISU, located in Normal, extended the deadline for students to cancel their housing and meal plans to Aug. 18, the second full day of classes. ISU reduced occupancy in its residence halls, banned off-campus or overnight guests, and is requiring face coverings outside dorm rooms. The university also plans to provide randomized testing for students in residence halls.

Kate McGee covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @McGeeReports.

This story was updated to clarify that ISU ordered its COVID-19 testing supplies through a vendor and not from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.