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Illinois Yet To Reach 10,000 COVID-19 Tests Per Day Goal

photo by Chad Davis

The theme of today’s COVID-19 Briefing was transparency. Governor J.B. Pritzker opened his briefing statements noting it has been 10 days since he laid out a plan to reach 10,000 tests per day, the number needed to fully understand the virus’ presence in Illinois communities. 

“Folks, I promised you honesty and transparency in every step of our COVID-19 response, so here it is. We have only just recently surpassed 6,000 tests and we will not reach the 10,000 mark this week. Today I’m going to lay out exactly why that is…” Pritzker said. 

Pritzker explained that his 10-day plan had a key element: new laboratory automation machines to add a multi-thousand unit daily increase to Illinois state labs. Illinois partnered with Thermo Fisher, a global provider of COVID-19 testing solutions. 

From Thermo Fisher, Illinois acquired 5 high volume RNA extractors. Each of the 5 machines promised to run 200 tests per hour, and they were distributed across Illinois’ three state laboratories. 

“Over the past ten days, working alongside experts from Thermo Fisher, we are still not getting the level of output that we want to see from these machines. More importantly these tests are not producing valid results in a way that meets our exacting standards… I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed. These tests and the results they will provide are too important. We have to get this right.” Pritzker said. 

Until the machines’ inaccuracies are overcome, they will not be a part of the Illinois testing capacity. 

“10 days ago I said to you: ‘Every day we aren’t hitting 10,000 tests or more, is another day that we’re not able to get the answers that help us get past the current crisis.’ So today I’m standing in front of you and saying we are not there yet.” Pritzker said. 

Pritzker stated that Illinois will not solely rely on federally sanctioned labs, but rather on Illinois technicians, scientists, and academics, noting that Illinois was the first state in the nation to validate the original COVID-19 CDC test in February. 

“If we wanted to choose an easy, but less effective path we could increase testing capacity through private labs used by the federal government. The problem is those labs take 7 to 10 days to produce a result. People can end up on a ventilator before they ever get their testing result. That’s just not a timeline that I want to bet on.” Pritzker said. 

Illinois state labs also received 15 Abbott Labs ID Now machines from the federal government. However, the federal government only included 8 tests per machine for all of Illinois.  

“I lay out these obstacles not to complain or to point fingers, but to be fully transparent with all of you as to the challenges that we face and how we are working to overcome them. It’s on us. I’m also hopeful that this transparency will shine a light on some of what’s taking place across the country, and will encourage the White House to remove the obstacles that are blocking our path forward and to work together.” Pritzker said. 

In the briefing medical update Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health director, reported 15,078 COVID-19 cases including 462 deaths, representing an increase of 1,529 cases and 82 deaths over the last 24 hours. 

“These are our highest numbers to date, and although the numbers are still increasing I will tell you that the rate at which they’re increasing is less, and that is a good sign. We are not seeing the exponential growth that we were seeing before. But even as there may be some glimmers of hope, I say that physical distancing has to, must continue to be the way that we reduce the spread of this virus. Please stay home.” Dr. Ezike said. 

Illinois COVID-19 briefings will take place daily at 2:30pm.

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