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South Suburban College provides COVID-19 testing for community

South Suburban College has signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Public Health to extend free COVID-19 testing on its main campus in South Holland through Dec. 31, 2020.

ChicagoTalks reached out to Ernst Lamothe Jr., communications manager for Thornton Township, to discuss the impact of this increased testing on the region. Thornton Township is the largest township in Illinois, overseeing 17 communities. Lamothe Jr. is also a consultant for South Suburban College.

Why was South Suburban College chosen as a COVID-19 testing site?

“Since there were very few testing sites in the area, the supervisor of Thornton Township, Frank Zuccarelli, who also is the chairman of the board of trustees at South Suburban College, worked with Governor J.B. Pritzker to make sure there would be a testing site in the south suburbs.”

— Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Is there a possibility the testing center will continue throughout next year?

“A lot of that depends on how our numbers look, Illinois is one of those states where COVID cases continue to rise. The reason why we extended it is because of the combination of holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Families are getting together which can increase the risk of exposure. Also, there are many students coming back home from school during the holidays [and] they’re coming back from various states. We still don’t know the outcome of how things are going to look for our area come the beginning of next year. If the testing site reopens it will be for the first quarter of 2021 and it will because of the factors I alluded to earlier on.”

— Ernst Lamothe Jr.

ChicagoTalks also spoke with Patrick Rush, executive director of public relations and development at South Suburban College:

How has the testing site impacted the college?

“The testing site has been a big win for the community. There are not a lot of options for testing in the south suburban area, and to have it on our campus both free and convenient has been a big resource not only for South Suburban College but also our surrounding schools and businesses.”

— Patrick Rush

Are your employees required to get tested there?

“They are not required to get tested here but certainly it has been a great way for our staff and students who worry about an exposure to get tested, multiple times if necessary. It also has been a resource for those that have been infected or exposed to someone who has, to be able to gain the appropriate clearance to return to work or school.”

— Patrick Rush

How has this transition impacted you as the executive director of public relations and resource development at South Suburban College?

“Our PR office has been very busy strategically communicating the testing site to our community of employees and students along with our community partners including school districts and municipalities. We receive a significant number of inquiries that we manage on a daily basis.”

— Patrick Rush

According to the South Suburban College COVID-19 information site, as of October 26, through November first, there has been one positive test from an employee. Since March 19, there have been a total of 22 confirmed cases, 17 from employees, and five from students.

The testing site has proven to be very impactful to the community, with daily testing available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The testing criteria includes:

  • Testing is available for anyone, not only Illinois residents
  • Testing is available for all ages (with parental consent)
  • State-issued identification is required
  • Testing will now be conducted via nasal swab which is painless, and a significant improvement over the more invasive nasopharyngeal test
  • Results are delivered by phone within four to seven business days

The testing center is located at 15800 S. State St., South Holland, Illinois. The drive-thru route will be limited to the south side of campus near the athletic fields. Employees, students and visitors can access the main campus through 158th Street, and north lot entrances.

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