Pritzker Announces State-Run Drive Through Testing, Need For More Hospital Beds

By Benjamin Cox on March 25, 2020 at 8:52am

Governor J.B. Pritzker stressed the importance of testing and the need for hospital beds yesterday during his daily COVID-19 press conference. Pritzker said that the state began drive through testing at state and federal facilities on Sunday and Monday. The Illinois National Guard opened the first entirely state-run drive-through testing facility in northwest Chicago in Harwood Heights. Prtizker said he hopes to bring testing in the state up to 4300 specimens per day. As of yesterday, just over 9800 people in the state had been tested according to IDPH statistics.

Pritzker said the need for more testing provides a better picture to healthcare experts on how the virus is being spread. “Testing is not only important to an individual and their doctor so they can know how best to treat the symptoms that a patient is feeling, but also so that we as a state can understand the scale and the severity of the outbreak. Testing helps demonstrate the actual reach of COVID-19, and informs us how we can potentially isolate the outbreak even as we work to flatten the curve.”

Pritzker said that the other weapon against the virus is helping the state to up its number of hospital beds available across the state. As of Monday, data reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) showed 12,588 non-ICU beds, 1,106 ICU beds and 1,595 ventilators available in hospitals across the state. IDPH, IEMA, the Illinois National Guard and the US Army Corps of Engineers are in the process of investigating closed hospitals that could temporarily reopen to support the COVID-19 response. Pritzker said in a worst case scenario surge, the state would turn existing hospitals into almost entirely COVID 19 response hospitals, moving non-COVID patients to other hospitals including these re-outfitted locations.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike became emotional during her time at the podium yesterday announcing 250 new cases of coronavirus disease and 4 more deaths, with Grundy County being added to the state’s list of places reporting a case for the first time. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,535 cases in 32 counties in Illinois. She became upset when talking about grieving families not being able to celebrate the memories of their lost loved ones through traditional services due to the current social distancing directives.

Pritzker said that he is currently considering extending the stay at home order for the state’s residents and working on state budget concerns while the state’s revenues bottom out during the crisis. “Again, I’m trying to follow the science here and I am concerned that we may have to extend that deadline. You know we have to start to see some movement in the numbers in the right direction or at least a shaping of the curve that looks like we’re hitting you know a good spot in that curve. You have to look at the number of hospitalizations to determine the number of people who are actually sick.”

Pritzker’s Daily Press Conference will be held at 2:30 again this afternoon.