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Illinois 4,000 COVID-19 tests per day short of goal, governor says

State sees highest death total in 24-hour period

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Governor JB Pritzker announced Wednesday afternoon that Illinois has recently surpassed 6,000 COVID-19 tests per day, 4,000 short of the goal.

Ten days ago, Pritzker laid out a plan to issue 10,000 tests per day in 10 days in order to understand the presence of the virus in the community.

"We are not there yet," he said.

Pritzker said that the machines being utilized currently from Thermo Fisher, a global provider of COVID-19 testing solutions to state and commercial laboratories, are not providing valid results.

“I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed. Until these challenges are overcome, these machines will not be part of our testing capacity here in Illinois,” he said.

The Illinois Department of Health said they are working with commercial manufacturers and local hospitals in order to reach the goal and get accurate results.

In response, the governor outlined a new plan to increase the capacity. Private labs used by the federal government, he said, takes 7-10 days to produce a test result. State labs and local hospitals take two days.

“Instead of solely relying on federally sanctioned labs to save us, we’re charting our own path forward,” Pritzker said.

Moving away from global supply chains, the state is working with in-state universities and labs to develop their own raw materials such as the Viral Transport Medium (VTM), a necessary reagent, to distribute locally. Hospitals running low on VTM will be able to access these resources.

Pritzker also announced that more than 96 locations across the state are now collecting specimens.

“This capacity has brought us the increase that we have already achieved, 6,000 tests in a 24 hour period,” he said.

The state’s labs will be matching their capacity soon, he added.

There have been 75,066 tests performed in the state.

Illinois reported 15,078 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 1,529. There have been 82 deaths the last 24 hours, making the total at 462.

Both the death total and new case total are the highest for a 24-hour period during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Response Fund announced Wednesday morning a $5.5 million grant to 30 organizations that serve vulnerable populations with access to food, shelter, health care, mortgages and utilities.

As the governor continues to urge people to stay at home, some may be able to return to work thanks to a new test recently authorized by the FDA.

“This blood test detects antibodies and persons who have been infected, not the actual virus. An important distinction as we are focused on finding COVID-19 positive individuals and isolating them from those who are not infected,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

By helping identify people who have overcome an infection and developed an immune response, the antibody tests will “play a critical role in the fight against COVID-19,” Ezike said.

"Results from antibody testing will identify individuals who we assume will be no longer susceptible to the infection and can return to work,” she said.

This test, she added, could also help determine who may donate blood that could serve as a possible treatment for those who are seriously ill from COVID-19.

While the IDPH is bringing antibody testing to Illinois, their bigger priority, she said, is obtaining the test that will actually detect the virus. The IDPH is responding to the testing supply constraints by developing multiple testing platforms that will reduce its dependence on commercial manufacturers.

“We need to know where there are large numbers of cases, hotspots, if you will, so that we can try to do more targeted efforts to stop the spread in those high risk areas,” Ezike said.

To further assist with testing, Wednesday evening, the Illinois Air National Guard planned to move 250 negative pressurized tents from Eugene, Oregon to Chicago. In addition, 575 guardsmen from the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard will assist in the build out of the McCormick Place Convention Center set to turn into an Alternate Care Facility (ACF) for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who don’t require intensive care.

“This effort is truly a whole of government approach to ensure the very timely delivery of these negative pressurized tents in parallel with a build out, the really expeditious build out, of the McCormick facility,” Illinois Adjutant General Richard Neely said.

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