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First Responders And Medical Workers Face Mile-Long Line At Coronavirus Testing Site

The state's testing site on the Northwest Side can only administer 250 tests each day right now.

Long lines outside the state's first coronavirus testing facility, 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive.
Bob Chiarito/ Block Club Chicago
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DUNNING — Needing to be tested for COVID-19, registered nurse Janet Hopkins drove to the state’s first drive-thru testing site and was in line by 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Three-and-a-half hours later, the gates to the Northwest Side testing site opened and she was finally tested. But with a mile-long line and a limited number of tests, other first responders and medical professionals weren’t as fortunate.

Trisha Anderson, a medical social worker at Stroger Hospital, pulled in line at 8:45 a.m., more than a mile behind Hopkin’s lead car. She wasn’t sure she’d get tested, as only 250 first responders and medical workers are being tested each day at the site, 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive.

The site is located on Illinois Department of Public Health property and is being manned by 150 members of the Illinois National Guard, along with the Chicago Office of Emergency Management officials and Chicago Police. It is one of several public and private testing sites open in Illinois.

Before the testing site opened, cars lined up at the entrance around Forest Preserve Drive and Newland Avenue, stretching west to Harlem Avenue, then south to Irving Park Road, and east to Oak Park Avenue while emergency workers and Chicago Police helped direct traffic.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/ Block Club Chicago
Long lines outside the state’s first coronavirus testing facility, 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive.

During a press conference Tuesday, Gov. JB Pritzker said three state labs are currently administering 1,800 tests a day, and four commercial labs and 15 hospital labs can process about 1,500 more each day. Within two weeks, hospital and university labs would be processing an additional 2,805 tests each day, bringing the daily total to more than 4,300 tests, Pritzker predicted.

About 14,209 people have been tested statewide as of Wednesday.

There are now been 19 deaths in the state, along with 1,865 positive cases. That’s an increase of three deaths and 330 new cases in the past day.

Pritzker has called on the federal government for more tests in his press conferences and on Twitter.

While there are now several tests sites in the Chicago area, most have their own rules for what groups and who among those groups can be tested. For the most part, hospital and medical personnel are being tested first, and then members of the public who have symptoms of the virus.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/ Block Club Chicago
Long lines outside the state’s first coronavirus testing facility, 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city wants the general public to be tested but is stifled by the lack of available tests.

“We don’t have the tests to do the big, broad tests that we’d like to do,” Arwady said.

Arwady also said not everyone should be tested.

“If someone does not have symptoms, they do not need a test, period,” Arwady said.

Anderson said she tried to get tested on Tuesday and was turned away after waiting an hour. She said she fears she may have the virus, as she has shortness of breath and a cough. If she was turned away again on Wednesday, she planned to keep coming back until she is tested.

“What else do I have to do? I’m not able to work right now anyway,” Anderson said.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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