Governor J.B. Pritzker continues to scramble to get the State of Illinois in a better position to commence wide-scale testing in its pursuit of readying to open the state back up. Early in April, the Governor announced a plan but shared that testing machines produced by vendor Thermo Fisher were not operating as promised—hence the state was short of machines. However, he was glad to report that they are now “up and running with reliable results” so Illinois is in a better position to “ramp up over the next week” while expanding tests to add “additional capacity of thousands of more tests per day at our states labs alone.” Illinois also needed the supplies and equipment to conduct tests and Pritzker reported a shortage of viral transport medium (VTM) as well as swabs. However, some of the state’s academic medical centers have come to the rescue along with private sector actors, state agencies, and resourceful residents.
The Pandemic in Illinois
The state has been hit hard with about 29,000 cases reported and 1,259 deaths. The local press reports 125 on average die daily. The serious illness and death is concentrated in Chicago metropolitan area or “Chicagoland.” With nearly 10 million in this sprawling urban center, there are signs of hope, but there is a way to go before the light at the end of the tunnel brightens. Schools across the state are ordered closed through the rest of the year; and in rare actions, the state had to impose shut downs of private industry such as the Hormel Foods plant in that state.
Academic Medical Centers Step Up
Illinois Tech, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, University of Illinois at Chicago, and University Illinois Urbana-Champaign—and of course an ecosystem of vendors—have come together collaboratively to produce enough supplies: namely VTM and swabs to stock not just state labs, but also help additional labs statewide, reports Kristen Thometz of WTTW.
To expedite the expansion of a pervasive testing capacity, Pritzker has arranged for a network of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs)—such as TCA Health (Roseland and Chatham), the Erie Family Health Centers (Evanston-Skokie region) and other centers. The governor’s office reports dozens more centers soon to be live.
State-Run Augments Private Sector
The Governor, after navigating many initial challenges during the earlier part of the crisis, has led and mobilized in such a way that Illinois is turning the corner and headed toward the ability to open up the state and move toward normalcy. For example, he has set up a situation where Illinois state testing facilities will be open to those individuals even with no doctor’s order. The successful state-run drive-thru testing centers will be open to this new demographic segment. At present, the state-run drive-thru operations conduct 1,800 tests per day.
Targeting the At-Risk South Side of Chicago
Dr. Stephen Weber, University of Chicago Medical Officer, reports the provider in partnership with Ingalls Memorial Hospital will test 1,000 people per day in the at risk, primarily African American South Side as well as southern suburban communities. TrialSite News reported Black Americans face higher risks than others.
Call to Action. Are you an Illinois resident? See the online form for a list of sites along with testing eligibility.