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URBANA — Hundreds of Champaign County employees may soon have access to weekly COVID-19 tests using University of Illinois’ saliva-based testing program.

After the county board authorized County Executive Darlene Kloeppel to negotiate a contract for testing county workers, Kloeppel said Friday she will be negotiating that contract with Peoria-based OSF HealthCare rather than with the UI.

Both OSF and the UI declined to say why the county’s contract for UI saliva testing would be with OSF.

“We are still working out details of the program,” UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Friday.

OSF HealthCare is already providing its OSF OnCall Connect care program for those testing positive for COVID-19 to UI students and faculty, along with the rest of the community.

“OSF HealthCare looks forward to sharing information about future partnerships and testing opportunities as we are able,” said OSF spokesman Curt Squires.

In addition to authorizing Kloeppel to negotiate a contract for testing county employees, the county board also Thursday authorized a budget amendment that would cover up to $70,000 in testing expenses.

A memo to the board in advance of its meeting from board Finance Chair Stephanie Fortado said $140,000 would cover weekly testing for all 841 county employees for eight weeks at $20 a test. However, Kloeppel said, the testing will be optional for employees and not all will opt in. Some also have already been vaccinated for COVID-19, she said.

It’s also not definite the tests will run $20 each, according to Kloeppel.

The cost will likely run $10 to $20 per test, she said, but, “I think I can get it for $10 a test.”

Testing may begin as soon as in March, and county employees will probably be going to UI State Farm Center for testing, Kloeppel said.

It’s likely the county board will reevaluate sometime in April whether testing for county employees would continue, she said.

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