NBC 5 Investigates: Illinois, Indiana Rank On Lower End of Coronavirus Testing

Illinois ranked 31st while Indiana came in at 40th in terms of coronavirus testing

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Nationwide, most people getting tested for coronavirus are people whose symptoms are severe or who are at risk for complications. There are many others here who can’t get tested — even though they may be walking around with the virus and not know it — because the test kits are still in such short supply.

And that may be hiding a big problem here in Illinois and Indiana, according to new numbers analyzed by NBC 5 Investigates. 

NBC 5 Investigates examined data showing the entire country’s coronavirus tests, compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, which totaled nearly a million tests as of this past Monday, and found that Illinois and Indiana rank on the lower end of testing rates of their population — 31st and 40th respectively — compared to other states. However, both rank among the top states for rates of confirmed cases of coronavirus, from those tests.

In Illinois, 17 percent – more than one out of every six people tested so far – has the virus. In Indiana, 15 percent – more than one out of every seven people tested so far – has coronavirus.

To compare:  In Florida – where the virus is growing – just 10 percent of tests are coming back positive.  In Missouri, another state where the virus is rising, 7 percent are positive:  Less than half our rate here.

“I want to be frank with you, where we are now is not where I want to be,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Sunday.

Pritzker said the state only had enough resources to complete 4,000 tests a day – less than half of the 10,000 daily tests he wants to do.

“Every day we aren’t hitting 10,000 tests or more is another day that we’re not able to get answers that help us get past this current crisis,” Pritzker said. “The White House has promised millions of tests for weeks now. I’m not going to wait on promises from the federal government that may never be fulfilled.”

NBC 5 Investigates also looked at testing and infection rates in New York — the current epicenter of the nation’s coronavirus outbreak. New York State has run more than 186,000 tests as of Monday on a higher rate of citizens. Those increased tests revealed a much higher rate of infection: one out of every three people tested in New York has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

New York did not impose a stay-at-home order and close down businesses until a day after Illinois did.

“It’s always a good to learn lessons from other states, especially those who have had more cases,” said Dr. Mark Dworkin, Associate Director of Epidemiology at the University of Illinois.

However, Dr. Dworkin cautioned against comparing numbers of tests between states.

“Different states are experiencing the outbreak at a different pace. There are also different population factors, maybe more elderly, less elderly and so on,” Dr. Dworkin said.

But he said there is no question that all states need to increase their testing capacity.

“The more testing we have, the more information we have in order to make decisions,” Dr. Dworkin said.

Lake Bluff-based Abbott Laboratories announced last week that the Food and Drug Administration approved its rapid coronavirus test, one that can give you a result in just minutes. Pritzker said he was on the phone with Abbott leaders to ask that the company’s home state would be first in line for those kits.

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