State officials in Illinois had hoped to be processing up to 10,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of this week, but Governor J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that the state will not be able to hit that benchmark after hitting several roadblocks.
In the last 24 hours, the state has processed at least 6,000 coronavirus tests, far short of the 10,000 mark, according to the governor.
According to Pritzker, the state recently partnered with Thermo Fisher to add new laboratory automation machines at state-run labs. Those machines, regulated by the FDA and authorized for use in Illinois under an Emergency Use Authorization order, are capable of running 200 tests per hour when operating at peak efficiency, but issues with the machines have prevented them from running at that level.
“We are still not getting the level of output we want to see from these machines,” Pritzker said. “More importantly, these tests are not producing valid results in a way that meets our exacting standards.”
Pritzker says that state scientists and the company are continuing to work on the machines, but is unsure of when they will reach the level of efficiency state officials were hoping they would hit.
The governor laid out other options that the state had considered, but ultimately rejected. According to Pritzker, the state could increase testing capacity through private labs used by the federal government, but those labs take as long as 7-to-10 days produce test results. By contrast, state-run labs and local hospitals can get results within two days, if not sooner.
Pritzker dismissed the temptation to use those private labs, saying that the increase in testing would not be justified due to the lack of speed that would come with it.
“I am as impatient as the rest of you to increase testing, but I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed,” he said. “These tests and the results they will provide are too important. We have to get this right, and that is not a timeline I want to bet on.”
Pritzker also said the White House has caused some roadblocks on the route to more testing, sending rapid-result testing equipment to private labs instead of state run labs, thereby making it more difficult for state officials to access the tests.
Even amid all of the challenges the state is facing in its efforts to increase testing capacity, Pritzker said that the ultimate responsibility for falling short of the 10,000 test goal rests on his shoulders.
“No matter how much is beyond our control, the buck stops with me and we are still not where we need to be on the testing front,” he said.