CHICAGO — About 2,000 coronavirus tests are now being done throughout Illinois every day — but far more are needed, officials said Tuesday.
When the state first started testing people for COVID-19 in February, just 50 tests were being done per day. State labs, hospitals and commercial labs have ramped up efforts since then and the state could see up 4,300 tests per day in coming weeks, but it’s still not enough, Gov. JB Pritzker said during a Tuesday briefing on coronavirus.
“Even with this rapid expansion, we still need tens of thousands more tests to get an accurate picture in our state,” Pritzker said. “We cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who’s infected. Test, test, test.”
Testing is crucial so individuals and their doctors can know the best way to treat someone, Pritzker said.
And, on a grander scale, widespread testing is needed so officials can “understand the scale and severity of the outbreak in Illinois,” Pritzker said. The governor has previously said he would like everyone to get tested, but that’s not currently possible.
So far, there have been 1,535 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois with 16 deaths. Overall, Illinois has done 11,485 tests.
Experts have said the virus is likely far more widespread here — but the lack of testing supplies means confirming cases has proven difficult.
Testing was slowed down in Illinois, and throughout the United States, because the federal government made mistakes early in the pandemic that slowed down the creation and supply of tests.
Because testing has been so limited, Pritzker has previously advised Illinoisans not to get tests if they have only mild symptoms of COVID-19, are not elderly or do not have an underlying health condition. He said tests should be saved for people who were at higher risk from the virus.
That’s led to fear and frustration among Chicagoans who don’t know what their sickness is or if they should be isolated from family members.
Pritzker says he’s personally reached out to CEOs, asking them to supply Illinois with testing kits.
But Pritzker has also said people who are ill should just assume they have coronavirus and act accordingly since there still aren’t enough tests for everyone.
Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.
Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.
The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The most common symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.
If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.
How To Protect Yourself
The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.
Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:
- The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
- Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.
What To Do If You Think You’re Sick
Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.
If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.
Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.