With positive cases of coronavirus down in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that more than 500 members of the state’s National Guard will wrap up their missions at the 11 state-run testing sites by the end of this month.
According to Pritzker, more than 200,000 tests have been administered by community-based testing sites during the pandemic, with National Guard members assisting at those facilities.
“They’ve helped us build a groundbreaking testing infrastructure that will continue to make a difference for Illinoisans long after their mission is completed in the coming days,” Pritzker said during an event at a new mobile testing site on the South Side of Chicago.
According to Pritzker, at least 100 National Guard members will remain activated through the end of the month to ensure a smooth transition at the test facilities, with private contractors taking over logistical and support roles at the sites.
Pritzker also said that the federal government’s withdrawal of financial support for community-based COVID-19 testing facilities played a role in the decision, forcing the state to turn to private contractors.
“When the federal government decided to no longer support those testing sites, we brought in other trained personnel as we continue to expand our community-based testing capacity,” he said.
According to data cited by Pritzker, cases in Illinois are down by more than 70 percent from their peak in late April, and the number of hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 is also down by at least 70 percent, and he thanked the tireless efforts of the National Guard to bolster the successful ramp-up of testing facilities during the height of the pandemic.
“These citizen-soldiers spent months away from their families and their regular civilian jobs to see our state through the worst of this pandemic,” he said. “On behalf of the people of Illinois, I want to express my deep gratitude for their service, and we all have something to celebrate, as they can go home to their family and friends.”
The end of the National Guard mission to assist testing facilities doesn’t mean that the facilities will close. In fact, a dozen mobile testing sites are also being activated by Pritzker’s administration, ensuring that areas hard-hit by the virus can receive prompt, and free, testing to help identify cases and to limit any potential outbreaks.