State officials on Friday announced a further expansion of COVID-19 testing in Illinois, with testing now open to a range of front-line workers and employees at essential businesses and new testing sites opening across the state over the next week.
Along with first responders and front-line workers in health care and other fields, employees of grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and gas stations can now seek COVID-19 tests whether or not they’re exhibiting symptoms.
Also on that list are people who have been exposed to someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, state and local government employees and people with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions.
More widely available testing is one of the primary bench marks that each of the four regions defined in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan must meet in order to advance to the next phase.
Right now, all four regions are meeting the positive-test rate set by Pritzker’s reopening plan in order to move to the next phase of his plan, which could start May 29 at the earliest.
The seven-day average of positive coronavirus cases in the Northeast region, which includes the Chicago area, fell below 20% as of Monday. The 14-day average statewide positivity rate is under 14%, Pritzker said.
To move forward the share of people testing positive for the coronavirus must be at or under 20% and increase no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period.
“The positivity rate can be an indication of how widespread COVID-19 infections are among our population,” Pritzker said. “We all want the positivity rate to come down, which would indicate a declining number of people getting sick from the virus.”
Officials announced 2,432 new known cases of coronavirus Friday, pushing the statewide total of known cases to 90,369. Another 130 deaths were reported Friday, for a statewide total of 4,058 deaths since the pandemic began.
To date, 538,602 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the state, with officials on Friday reporting 26,565 tests conducted during a 24-hour period. Illinois was one of many states that struggled to expand testing earlier this year, amid a national shortage of supplies and testing kits.
In early April, the state fell short of a goal Pritzker set to conduct 10,000 tests per day in Illinois. At that time, around 75,000 tests had been conducted in the state.
The state for the first time surpassed 10,000 tests per day on April 24, and over the past week has conducted an average of 20,000 daily tests.
In the third phase of Pritzker’s reopening plan, gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed, and offices, manufacturing and salons and barbershops are among the types of businesses that can reopen, with precautions in place aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Once a region moves into another phase, the time period in which it must reach all of the bench marks to advance to the next phase starts anew.
To reach the fourth phase, when schools, child care centers, restaurants and bars could reopen and gatherings of up to 50 people would be allowed, the plan calls for testing to be widely available regardless of whether someone is exhibiting symptoms, among other metrics.
“As we open up more testing sites and as we make available more materials for testing, I think we’re in a much better place," Pritzker said Friday in response to a question about how close the state is to reaching that level of testing capacity. "So we’re making a lot of progress, I feel like we’re on a path to being in that spot as needed for every region in the state.”
— Chicago Tribune