Officials: Expanded Testing Key to Fighting Virus, Reopening the Economy

New statewide totals: 52,918 cases, 2,355 deaths

A day before a modified stay-at-home order takes effect in Illinois — the second extension of the governor’s executive order, which he signed Thursday — officials used their daily press briefing to discuss efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing across the state.

To date, nearly 270,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 throughout Illinois. The state is now completing about 13,000 tests a day, according to officials.

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Of those who have been tested, 52,918 have tested positive for the virus, and 2,355 have died.

“Knowing who’s infected is critically important,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday, as an additional 2,563 cases and 141 deaths were announced.

To expand its capacity, the state has worked to acquire additional testing machines and raw materials needed for tests. It’s also created its own supply of raw materials through partnerships with local universities and vendors.

There are 177 testing sites across the state — including 41 in Chicago — located at hospitals, federally qualified health care centers and two drive-thru sites, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who announced two more drive-thru sites will be opening next week: one in East St. Louis and one in Waukegan.

“Testing, tracing and (personal protective equipment) are vital to reduce social restrictions, get our economy going and protect our residents,” Pritzker said Thursday.

Under the new order taking effect Friday, nonessential businesses can reopen in a limited capacity to fill orders made online or by phone and facilitate pickup, state parks will begin a phased reopening, and people can golf as long as they follow strict safety and social distancing guidelines.

Ezike urged residents to continue to stay home, wash their hands frequently, and wear a face mask or covering when in a public place, which will be required starting Friday per the new stay-at-home order.

The order has been hit with multiple lawsuits this week, including one that exempts state Rep. Darren Bailey from the extension and another filed Thursday by a church claiming the governor violated the First Amendment.

“Everyone has a right to sue,” Pritzker said when asked about the lawsuit filed by the Beloved Church, which intends to hold services Sunday.

The governor acknowledged the strain the stay-at-home order is causing, saying, “These are difficult times for parishioners and those who worship.” Pritzker urged faith leaders to hold virtual services for the health and safety of their parishioners.

What if a church violates the order and holds services anyways?

“Nobody’s going to break up a church gathering at that moment,” Pritzker said, but he warned that there are consequences to such actions.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

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.

Additional resources:

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

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