While Illinois set a new mark for its highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases, Governor J.B. Pritzker said that an increase in the state’s COVID-19 testing is an indication of how far officials have come in fighting the virus.
Speaking at his daily coronavirus press briefing Wednesday, Pritzker said that the state conducted more than 9,300 tests in the last 24 hours, the highest number yet during the pandemic.
“I’ve talked about this a lot. We’re working every day to expand testing in the state, and you’re starting to see some success,” Pritzker said. “I want many more tests in the state, and you shouldn’t be surprised if that testing number continues to grow.”
The rise in test numbers has been slowed by a variety of issues. Earlier this month, the Pritzker administration set a goal of conducting 10,000 or more tests per day by April 11, but failed to reach that number.
According to the governor, a state partnership with Thermo Fisher added machines that could process 200 tests per hour while running at peak efficiency, but issues with the devices prevented them from running at that level.
Since then the state has continued to slowly ramp up testing capacity, but Wednesday marked the first time that the state had processed more than 9,000 tests in a 24-hour period. A total of 9,349 tests were performed over the last 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 164,346 tests performed since the pandemic began.
Pritzker says that the state is still working hard to ramp up testing, but issues with the machines are only one of the issues they’ve run into.
“It’s a complex set of things you have to have,” he said. “You have to have the swabs, the BTM and the re-agent to conduct these tests. You have to have access to labs with the machines. You have to have lab technicians. All those things have to work in conjunction with one another.”
Pritzker also cited an easing of requirements to obtain a test in the state. Previously, patients had to be of a certain age or have a doctor’s note to get tested for COVID-19, but the state has eased those requirements in some locations.
In addition, the state is opening up new testing facilities frequently, with new drive-thru facilities opening in Aurora on Wednesday and in Rockford on Friday.
Those facilities can be used by any individual experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, according to a press release.
“Greater testing capacity is needed so that healthcare workers, first responders and those who continue to be on the job can be tested before they unknowingly spread the virus to others,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “More testing will help us end this pandemic sooner.”
Pritzker says that in addition to more testing, contact tracing and improved treatments of COVID-19 are required before the state can fully re-open businesses and public events without restrictions. It is unclear what measures the state will leave in place when the current stay-at-home order expires on April 30, although an extension of that order remains on the table.