antibody testing

Why Pritzker Says Illinois Won't ‘Run Full Speed Ahead' With Antibody Testing

"We don't want people to get false negatives or false positives that would lead people to believe that they're immune or that they're not immune," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

Photo by Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Gov. J.B. Pritzker made it clear Friday that Illinois doesn't plan to rush into antibody testing at a statewide level, even as he announced a new daily milestone for coronavirus testing in the state.

"In theory, these tests could be an effective tool," Pritzker said during Friday's coronavirus briefing. "We are craving answers in an uncertain time, and antibody tests offer the potential for more security. But I’m afraid we’ve seen many of these tests promoted in a way that errs on the side of irresponsible. To be clear, these tests are not quite where we need them to be to offer a true metric of immunity in Illinois."

When asked for clarification about whether he thinks residents should hold off on getting an antibody test, Pritzker acknowledged that some clinics are administering the tests, and while he isn't discouraging individuals from getting tested, he emphasized why Illinois wasn't making a push for it.

"The fact is that verifying those tests has been difficult for everybody," he said. "And we don't want people to get false negatives or false positives that would lead people to believe that they're immune or that they're not immune. ... We just want to make sure that we have the right information that is available with the tests that actually are effective."

A private clinic in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, for example, is now offering coronavirus antibody tests, which the FDA says can help identify who has been infected as well as identify those still at risk.

Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency room physician and the CEO of the clinic, Innovative Express Care, said the information will be invaluable.

"I think it is very, very important to understand the prevalence of COVID-19 and get people back to work, especially healthcare workers and first responders," Dr. Khare said. "If you do have antibodies, what does that tell you? For right now, it [says] you have a low chance of getting [coronavirus] again."

Antibodies may provide potential immunity against future infection, and the FDA has said results from these tests can also help inform who may qualify to donate plasma to patients seriously ill with COVID-19.

Pritzker said understanding immunity in Illinois communities "would be extremely important to our COVID-19 response" but said he wants "to be sure we all understand where the research is right now on the development of tests for antibodies."

"There are active validation studies for antibodies tests across the nation and world, as well as here in Illinois," he said. "We’re monitoring those studies, and planning how we could deploy those tests when they’re ready. As soon as they prove themselves accurate and reliable, I will make it a priority to get them out into our communities as widely as we can."

Pritzker on Friday announced the state surpassed its goal of 10,000 daily tests, exceeding that number by a large margin with 16,124 tests reported.

On Friday the new coronavirus testing site at the Chicago Premium Outlets mall in Aurora reached capacity almost immediately after opening Friday, according to the area’s police department. The new drive-thru facility, run by the Illinois National Guard with help from the Aurora Police Department, opened at 8 a.m. By 8:02 a.m., the police department said the facility had "reached capacity for today and has closed."

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