Weeks ago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he wanted to perform 10,000 coronavirus tests a day. On Friday, Pritzker announced Illinois has reached and surpassed that mark.
At his daily public briefing, Pritzker said the state conducted 16,124 COVID-19 tests across its 112 public testing sites on Thursday, besting the previous single-day high of some 9,300 tests set on Wednesday.
“There’s still more work to do to maintain and build on this progress,” he said, “but reaching and surpassing the 10,000 mark is a great first step.”
That announcement came as Illinois recorded 2,724 new cases – also a single-day high – and 108 additional COVID-19 deaths on Friday. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike was not surprised there was a record number of new cases, which she said is to be expected as more and more tests are conducted.
In total, Illinois has now recorded 39,658 coronavirus cases and 1,795 deaths across 96 counties.
While there is still no cure or vaccine, Ezike said it’s testing that’s one of the “key elements” to helping halt the ongoing pandemic.
"We have flattened the curve,” she said. “We have lowered the amount of lives lost. I encourage people to remain vigilant. We will get through this.”
Pritzker said he believes Illinois will be able to maintain performing 10,000 tests per day, but said it’s dependent on a couple of things, including how many people go to get tests on a given day and testing supplies.
But just because Illinois has hit this goal, it doesn’t mean the state will stop pushing for even more testing.
“Of course this isn’t enough,” Pritzker said, “and so the idea here is that we have to keep going, and we will.”
The governor said it took a “multi-faceted effort” and partnerships with local hospitals and medical centers to hit its testing goal. While the state has ramped up its COVID-19 testing, Pritzker said Illinois won’t see any efforts to increase antibody testing until those results can be validated.
Those tests aren’t used to find the virus itself in a given person, but they instead show if that person’s immune system has antibodies to respond to the coronavirus. Those tests are available and are being promoted elsewhere, but Pritzker said no one yet knows how accurate they are.
“This is a novel virus, entirely new, so researchers don’t yet know the extent to which having COVID-19 antibodies equals having immunity,” he said. “The fact is that verifying those tests has been difficult for everybody and we don’t want people to get false negatives or false positives. We just want to make sure we have the right information that is available with the tests that actually are effective.”
On Thursday, Pritzker extended his statewide stay-at-home order through May, adding a new requirement that people over the age of 2 wear face masks or coverings when they go into public places and businesses where a 6-foot social distance can’t be maintained. Enforcement of this new requirement, Pritzker said, will be left to local municipalities.
Asked if places like grocery stores should turn people away if they don't wear face masks, Pritzker compared the situation to restaurants requiring guests to wear shoes in order to enter.
"It's perfectly acceptable to tell people that you’re not allowed in if they're not wearing a face mask," he said. “Remember a face covering is protecting other people, so this person is being not just disrespectful to everybody in the grocery store, but potentially infecting other people by not wearing a face covering.”
Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources
Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including:
—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick
Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:
—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue
If you think you have COVID-19:
Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
—Illinois’ COVID-19 website
—Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
—City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link