Pritzker Working On Increasing the State’s COVID-19 Testing to 10,000 a Day

By Benjamin Cox on March 29, 2020 at 3:30pm

Illinois had its single largest jump in reported positive COVID-19 cases today. Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that the state received word of 1105 additional cases and 18 more deaths. Nearby Menard County has reported its first case. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 4,596 cases, including 65 deaths, in 47 counties in Illinois.

Dr. Ezike said that the state is working with nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and prisons to do better about limiting the spread of the virus through new procedures, more health screenings, and improving quarantine practices.

Governor J.B. Pritzker said he hopes to continue to ramp up the state’s capacity for testing. “In our last testing announcement on [March] 24th, we were running about 2000 tests per day across our three state labs, our four commercial labs and our 15 hospital labs. Today, we’re now averaging around 4000 tests per day. And in total we have now run nearly 28,000 tests here in Illinois with 30 Hospital and clinical laboratories now up and running. Within the next 10 days, we believe that we will be up to 10,000 tests per day. Again, we’re at 4000 today. 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 Illinois’102 counties.”

Pritzker said that the state is currently working to acquire more equipment for the laboratories to make testing faster and easier: “We’re acquiring additional laboratory robotics to load our 12 real time PCR machines at a multi-thousand unit increase in single-day capacity. We’re getting our first two machines on loan. And we’ll have them up and running by Tuesday, and we expect the others later this week. This technology is crucial, as it replaces manual loading and shrinks down the bottleneck for results. We’re working with the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute to ensure our staffing and logistics reflects this increased capacity, as well as exploring options with the Illinois State Police to utilize their manpower to move materials and equipment to maximize daily capacity at each of our three state labs.”

Pritzker said he has also contacted the Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories to secure their new five-minute rapid COVID-19 test for the state as well as partnering with local hospitals to ramp up commercial testing efforts. Pritzker also went on to say that a new drive-thru testing site has been set up in McLean County by the Illinois National Guard joining the Harwood Heights facility in northwest Chicago and the 3 federal Health & Human Services sites in Bolingbrook, North Lake, and Joliet. Pritzker has asked the federal government to raise the cap at the drive-thru facilities from 250 tests per day to 400 per day and to get the turn-time for test results back in a quicker fashion.

Pritzker warned the state’s landlords about evictions or not giving rental properties to first responders, doctors, and nurses in the state out of fear of spreading COVID-19: “We’re seeing news stories out of other states about nurses being thrown out of apartments or are denied the ability to rent their apartments out of fear of exposure by other tenants. We’ve not yet specifically heard of instances like that here in Illinois. But let me be very clear, that will not be tolerated in our state. I want to remind everyone that evictions are prohibited during this disaster to begin with. But I also want to make sure that landlords are not inappropriately terminating leases. So let me say this here, in Illinois we are fortunate to have a very strong community of attorneys that are ready to fight for nurses and for all healthcare workers to make sure that their rights are protected. If any healthcare workers encounter this situation, they should immediately contact the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for assistance.”

Pritzker said he would talk more about how the state is working to acquire Personal Protective Equipment, medical supplies, and expansion of hospital capacity in the next two days for his daily briefs.