SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR)– Public health leaders in Illinois are getting ready to make their way to Washington D.C. They will update Congress about the state of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Illinois. Before heading there, the director of the state’s department of public health updated state lawmakers about the Illinois’ need for more resources to continue to fight the virus.
“The risks to the Illinois public still remains low but we still want people to pay attention to what’s going on around the world and to prepare,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.
Dr. Ezike said the state will need more testing supplies to combat the novel coronavirus. “We are using them daily, I know at last count was about 2,200 so we are requesting for the CDC to send additional reagents so that when this runs out, there won’t be any pause and we will continue to test.”
Lawmakers said they were pleased with Public Health’s aggressive approach to handling the virus so far but wanted to know more about the state’s protocol for testing possible patients.
“Public Health does not do direct testing for the public. We get the samples after their clinician has done their evaluation and has done their assessment and so we would tell them about that process and let them go through those channels,” Ezike said.
After doctors in hospitals around the state diagnosed patients with possible symptoms of the virus, test samples are sent to Public Health’s testing labs, a process lawmakers worry will not work if the virus becomes an epidemic.
“If we see that this is spreading, we probably need some place people can just go because I a lot of people probably can’t just go to the doctor; they don’t have the money, they just aren’t connected, so what do we do about that? That’s something we really need to consider and not just wait until we see a bigger outbreak and will be prepared for that,” said Senator Patricia Van Pelt.
Ezike said the agency is considering drive-thru style testing where people can pull up and be tested in their cars, eliminating the risk of spreading the virus. For now, the new labs in Springfield and Carbondale are now open in addition to the original testing lab in Chicago.
While 22 people in Illinois are awaiting test results, Ezike said 116 people have been tested for the virus in total. Only four people have been diagnosed with the illness, no one has died of the aliment in Illinois yet.