Congressional delegation hopes more COVID-19 testing throughout Illinois leads to regional reopening

(The Center Square) – As more COVID-19 testing sites open in Illinois, a member of Illinois’ congressional delegation urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to take a regional approach to restart the state’s economy, but the governor has reservations.

The state’s been under a stay-at-home order since March 21 to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Pritzker’s order goes through April 30, but it could be extended or changed. He said one part of the equation was the need for more testing.

Walgreens Pharmacist Heather Fitzgerald said the company has opened new drive-thru testing sites in Springfield, Bolingbrook and Chicago.

“We should be able to do 20 [COVID-19 tests] per hour and we’re open roughly seven to eight hours, so we can do well over 200 a day if need be,” Fitzgerald said.

“I think that it’s important for everyone to understand that this is for identifying active COVID-19 infections, and not the antibody test,” she said. “This test will not tell a patient if they’ve had it or been exposed to it unless they’re actively infected. So, that is why we have the screening processes to identify if they’re qualified for the test.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said decisions about testing are “at the discretion of state and local health departments,” but symptoms could include fever, tiredness and dry cough.

“You have to have the symptoms,” said U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria.

He said such testing sites will be crucial to putting the state on a path to reopen.

“You can get a test in Peoria, Bloomington-Normal or here in Springfield if you meet those requirements,” LaHood said. “So I think testing is a big part of that and we’ve seen that here today that I think the access to that continues to grow and I think that’s going to give confidence to open things back up.”

LaHood said he wants the governor to take a tiered approach to reopening the state’s economy back up.

“Tier One would be a hotspot like Chicago, but Tier Three would be places like Quincy, other places in my district,” LaHood said. “That is a more balanced approach, that’s what you’ve seen other states do, and I think we’ve got to transition to that and I hope the governor will do that.”

LaHood also said local elected officials and public health experts can help in determining when to reopen the economy safely.

On Saturday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he had concerns about opening things up based on regions. He said the number of new cases in rural areas was increasing.

“I want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to keep the caseload and case numbers down in rural areas, too,” Pritzker said.

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