Market Place Mall COVID-19 test site

A sign directs drivers to the state-sponsored free coronavirus testing site at Market Place Mall in Champaign.

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CHAMPAIGN — Patients coming for coronavirus testing at the state drive-thru facility at Market Place Mall are no longer being asked to collect the sample themselves.

Testing is still being done via nasal swab, rather than the more uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab inserted farther back in the nasal passage. But it’s being done by a testing site staff member, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

“They are using a nasal swab, but it is no longer self-collected,” public health district Administrator Julie Pryde said.

Until recently, that site and others in the state had been operated by the Illinois National Guard.

Now the Market Place site and 10 others in the state are under the operation of contracted staff.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced July 8 that 500 Illinois National Guard members were wrapping up their mission at state testing sites, though 100 of them would remain on through the end of this month to help with the transition to contracted staff.

There haven’t been any National Guard members at the Market Place testing site since July 8, according to the Guard’s public affairs office.

Pryde said she doesn’t know why the nasal-swab test at Market Place is no longer being done on a self-collection basis, but the health district is working with the new contractor to encourage self-testing, she said.

“I have no idea why they chose to do it this way, but we continue to work on making that site more efficient,” she said. “We were spoiled by the efficiency of the National Guard site.”

Doug Toole, administrator of the Vermilion County Health Department, said the state mobile testing sites in his county are also staff-administered nasal-swab tests, “though if someone asks to self-administer, they can.”