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Pritzker: Illinois Delivers First Shipments Of Abbott BinaxNOW COVID Tests To Local Health Departments

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the state is not only getting more COVID testing kits to local healthcare agencies, it is also planning a vaccine distribution plan once a vaccine is available to everyone.

"Today marks our first shipments from the state of Illinois to local health departments around the state, carrying more than 170,000 Abbott BinaxNOW tests. These are the rapid antigen tests recently purchased and distributed to states on mass by the federal government, the federal government and Abbott have indicated that these shipments will continue on a weekly basis through at least the end of 2020, and will total over three million tests for the state of Illinois," Pritzker said.

The governor said the tests will be manufactured in Abbott's Gurnee plant which hired more than 1,000 people for the new location.

"We're viewing these tests as an important additional tool in our testing toolbox. We are piloting their usage in several different settings. In order to gather more data about their accuracy and sensitivity, and then adjusting our plan to achieve the maximum impact so we can battle COVID-19, the best we can," Pritzker said.

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The majority of the initial tests are going to local health department's directly to as the governor put it "ensuring resource access and flexibility on a local scale across the entire state. That means depending on the needs of the community, the local health department can choose to distribute their tests for any of a number of localized needs, including for K-12 settings."

First responders will be getting testing kits along with pilot testing programs as well as long term care facilities.

Pritzker said that the state is working with the CDC with a vaccine distribution plan once one becomes available, but the governor admitted many questions need to be answered before a plan is formalized.

"To be clear, there is no approved vaccine yet. My administration is updating healthcare providers and local health department's about Illinois vaccine rollout framework. This plan will evolve as vaccine trials come to a conclusion and the FDA decides which comes first," Pritzker said. "Will a successful vaccine require one or two doses? And how far apart must those doses be administered? Will the vaccines require cold storage? Or can they be stored at room temperature? If vaccines are distributed in large case containers, how will those cases be split up in smaller numbers for delivery to small healthcare facilities throughout the state?"

On Wednesday, the  number of  COVID-19 cases in Illinois continued to move upwards, with more than 4,000 new cases announced Wednesday. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 69 additional deaths.

On Tuesday, the state reported 3,714 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and 41 additional deaths, and the state's positivity rate and hospitalizations from the virus also continued to climb.

The governor said restrictions announced on Tuesday that bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Will, and Kankakee counties will have to halt indoor service starting Friday, as the state announced tougher COVID-19 restrictions for much of the Chicago suburbs due to a resurgence of the virus throughout the state.

Pritzker said the added mitigations in Region 7 (Will and Kankakee counties) and Region 8 (DuPage and Kane counties) were triggered when both regions surpassed a 7-day average positivity rate of 8% for three days in a row. Region 7's positivity rate stands at 8.6%, and Region 8's rate is now at 9%.

Will and Kankakee counties previously had added restrictions in place for more than three weeks from late August through mid-September, but those limits were lifted as their infection rate dropped to as low as 5.2% in September. Region 7's positivity rate started climbing again in October.

In addition to halting indoor service at bars and restaurants starting Friday, other new restrictions for DuPage, Kane, Will, and Kankakee counties include: requiring reservations for each party at restaurants and bars; shutting down party buses; requiring restaurants, bars, casinos, and other gaming facilities to close at 11 p.m.; and reducing capacity limits for public gatherings to the lesser of 25 people or 25% of overall room capacity.

Pritzker added state police will be able to enforce those who go against his orders for bars and restaurants.

"The state police is now alerted to be on patrol in those regions. They have the ability as you know, to not only issue citations, but they'll start by asking people to disperse and you know, warnings and so on, but they have the ability to issue citations," Pritzker said who added that with the information the state gets about violators, they may lose their liquor licenses..

"I have been reluctant to do because it has a semi-permanent effect on a business to take away their liquor license, especially for having not followed the regulations that are set out for them. So it'll be hard for them to get that license back. But now we're going to be making sure that we enforce that," Pritzker said.

The governor said people should take the restrictions seriously because bars and restaurants have been known as places where COVID-19 is able to spread in an enclosed area.

"There are 12 studies that I have right here, that show that bars and restaurants are in fact a major spreading location for the virus. It is disconcerting to me that people want to, you know, just either lie about it or disbelieve the facts. We've been operating on facts and data and science from the very beginning. We're not making arbitrary decisions," Pritzker said. "We're trying to be careful. We're not calling for across the board closed down businesses, etc. What we're trying to do is target the places where we think and know, based upon the science and based upon the contact tracing data, that it will have the biggest effect of lowering transmission."



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