SHIELD program a model for effective pandemic management, data show

June 09, 2022

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign News: The “SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell” program that combined frequent saliva tests with modeling and an app effectively kept the UIUC campus and surrounding community safe when on-campus operations resumed in fall 2020.

Comparing COVID-19 outcomes from July 6, 2020 to Dec. 23, 2020 in all 251 counties in the U.S. that host a large university, the number of COVID-19 cases in Champaign County, where the university is located, was roughly a third less than expected, the researchers report in the paper. Moreover, Champaign County had the greatest reduction in deaths – more than four times less than would be predicted based on other counties’ numbers.

“We don’t know what would have happened in Champaign-Urbana if we didn’t do this, but if we look at similar communities that have large universities, large student populations, we overperformed by a lot,” said epidemiologist Rebecca L. Smith, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and SHIELD team member.

Read more from the UIUC News article here.

Also a UIUC Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Rebecca Smith was a co-PI on a 2020 DTI project to design networked epidemiological models to better evaluate the effects of deploying various control measures to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. DTI consortium partner NCSA, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC, also contributed to the SHIELD program. SHIELD researchers used the computing resource known as the Illinois Campus Cluster, which is operated in conjunction with NCSA.

In addition, according to an NCSA news brief, NCSA members 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.