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Illinois Falls Short Of Goal For 10,000 Daily COVID-19 Tests This Week; 1,529 New Cases, 82 More Deaths

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With 1,529 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois, including 82 more deaths, Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday the state has not yet met its goal of testing 10,000 people per day.

Pritzker had wanted to reach that threshold by Wednesday, but said the state's labs won't be able to do so this week. Currently the state is conducting about 6,000 tests per day.

"The buck stops with me, and we are still not where we need to be on the testing front," the governor said.

To meet the goal of 10,000 tests per day, the state has partnered with Thermo Fisher Scientific, which is helping provide COVID-19 testing for several states, to install five high-volume RNA extractors Illinois testing labs. When fully functional, the machines should be capable of running 200 tests per hour, according to Pritzker, but he said the state is still not getting the output it wanted from those machines, and they are sometimes not providing valid results. So those machines won't be part of the testing process until they get it right.

"I am as impatient as the rest of you are wanting to increase testing, but I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed. These tests and the results they will provide are too important. We have to get this right," he said. "We are choosing the best path, but not necessarily the easiest path. If we wanted to choose an easy but less effective path, we could increase testing capacity through private labs used by the federal government. The problem is those labs take 7 to 10 days to produce a result. People can end up on a ventilator before they ever get their testing result. That's just not a timeline that I want to bet on."

The governor said he will put his faith in the state's scientists and researchers to expand testing in Illinois.

So far, Illinois has had 15,078 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 462 deaths. A total of 75,066 people have been tested. The 1,529 new cases and 82 new deaths in the past day are the largest one-day increases for both, but Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the percentage of new cases is slowing.

"Although the numbers are still increasing, I will tell you that the rate at which they are increasing is less, and that is a good sign. We are not seeing the exponential growth that we were seeing before, but even as there may be some glimmers of hope, I say that physical distancing has to – must – continue to be the way that we reduce the spread of this virus. Please stay home," Ezike said.

The governor also provided an update on the McCormick Place alternate treatment facility, which will focus on relieving overflow from hospitals, and treatment of minor and moderate cases of COVID-19.

Pritzker said, while the first 500 beds and rooms have been set up at McCormick Place, the facility still needs sufficient staffing before admitting patients. He also noted the site won't be the first place any patients visit for care, but will take patients transferred from traditional hospitals when they start to reach capacity, making it difficult to predict when the first patients will be treated at McCormick Place.

Illinois National Guard Brigadier Gen. Richard Neely, who is helping oversee the construction of the McCormick Place treatment site, said, "It would probably be sometime next week" before the facility starts treating patients.

Neely said crews at McCormick Place are focused on building of beds, negative pressurized tents, and other facilities, with the goal of having 3,000 total beds by the end of April. Neely said the Illinois Air National Guard is getting 250 negative pressurized tents from Oregon for McCormick Place.

"All that is coming together as we pull staff together, train up staff, and we work on things like pharmacy. You have to have a pharmacy up and operational, and so we're going through all those important dealings with making sure that that's prepared, the licensing, and all those kinds of things, as well as training," he said.

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