Illinois Gov. Pritzker Says State Testing For Coronavirus Will Ramp Up
In the midst of a global pandemic that has shut down much of society, concerns remain high in Illinois about getting enough people tested.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Sunday said the state is testing about 4,000 people per day. He expects that number will be at 10,000 in the next ten days.
“That marker, 10,000, is significant, because it’s the number of tests per day that the scientists and experts tell us that we need to get a truly holistic understanding of the virus in each of our 102 counties,” Pritzker said.
The latest numbers show 47 counties have positive cases of COVID-19. Confirmed cases in Illinois total 4,596, with 65 deaths as of Sunday afternoon.
“Every day we aren’t hitting 10,000 tests or more is another day that we’re not able to get answers that help us get past this current crisis,” he said.
Pritzker admitted the situation has long since moved past the point of containment. He put the blame on the federal government and President Donald Trump's administration.
“Nationally, there have been some improvements in testing, but we still have so far to go. The United States is still trailing other countries in testing on a per-capita basis, several times over. In all the states, we are working to fill the gap,” Pritzker said.
“But the most frustrating part of this gap is it’s not just in the past. The White House has promised millions of tests for weeks now, and they’re just not here. To be clear, I also welcome the testing capacity when it actually arrives, but I’m not going to wait on promises from the federal government that may never be fulfilled. We need this testing capacity now, so we’re building it ourselves in Illinois.”
The governor said that’s being done by adding shifts of technicians at all three state labs so they can analyze more samples. Additional lab robotics are being acquired that speed up the process. He said the Illinois State Police is exploring options to utilize manpower and maximize capacity.
Pritzker also appeared optimistic over a new rapid results test from Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, where production is expected to get underway soon.
He praised the Illinois National Guard, which has opened a second drive-thru testing site, this one in McLean County. Another is located in northwest Chicago. The federal Department of Health and Human Services is operating three other sites, and some local hospitals have begun testing by car.
Pritzker is asking for a federal rule limiting tests in those locations to 250 per day be expanded to 400. He said the limit has forced some people to be turned away. The governor said the goal is for everyone who needs a test to be able to get one.
A day after announcing an infant who tested positive for the coronavirus disease had died, there was no additional information released.
The 9-month-old died in Cook County after being hospitalized.
“We know that this is very top of mind for people, and we want to be deliberate and allow the processes to take place so we can give you the best information,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike.
Ezike said deaths of children from COVID-19 are rare, and this could be the first case of its kind in the U.S. From the data available, she said the disease in children typically results in more cold-like symptoms like fever, sore throat and runny nose.
The governor also tried to reassure parents that COVID-19 deaths among the young is uncommon.
“It’s so uncommon that, at least when I started to do the work and listen to the experts about it, I got at least some comfort in the idea that this is not something that we should expect to hear a lot more of, because it’s just not happening very often at all,” he said.
Sean Crawford is the news director at the NPR Illinois, 91.9 WUIS, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
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