It was late the evening of April 22, 2020 when Martin Burke, a then 44-year-old professor of chemistry, received a phone call from the university provost. The provost, Andreas Cangellaris, requested that Burke develop a COVID-19 testing program for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. Over the next week, Burke gathered eight more team members, forming the founding members of what was known as the SHIELD team. The first SHIELD meeting was held on April 30, 2020, just eight days after the Provost’s call.
Cases and deaths have been rising in Champaign County and the other 20 counties that make up what the state public health officials designate as Region 6, which covers East central Illinois. The county is also on a state alert because of the rate of infection, 471 cases per 100,000, which nine times the target rate of 50 cases per 100,000.