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Pritzker: Federal government needs to ‘step up’ in providing coronavirus test kits

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CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said he wants the federal government to “step up” and provide more test kits so that Illinois health officials can meet the demand of and help individuals who may be affected by the coronavirus, during a news conference held Thursday at the James R. Thompson Center.

“We have had not enough tests – period,” he said. “There are still not enough tests. And, so we’ve had to be careful about screening people for all kinds of other things before we get to the point, where we say, ‘OK, you’ve got all the symptoms associated with the coronavirus, and you’re not testing positive for these other things. We’re going to test you for coronavirus.’ ”

Pritzker believed that the federal government made a “mistake” when it shut down research institutions, including those in Illinois, and that the U.S. is lagging behind other countries, as far as testing individuals who may be affected by the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

There are seven new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in Illinois to 32, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, who joined Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other state officials at the conference.

The two cases include a Chicago woman in her 40s and a child. Outside of the city, there are three cases in Cook County that involve two women in their 70s and a man in his 50s. They also include a man in his 70s from Kane County and a man in his 60s in McHenry County.

“The young child in Chicago is a reminder that anyone can be infected with the virus,” Ezike said.

“It also means from that one case that dozens – if not hundreds of additional close contacts – will need to be identified, and have their information gathered and be monitored,” she added.

With that, Pritzker ordered Illinoisans to take precaution. He advised event organizers to immediately postpone – or better yet – cancel any events that could attract more than 1,000 people, as a safety measure because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I do not want to waste precious resources monitoring event cancellations, so I’m appealing to the civic, patriotic and humanitarian character of the residents of Illinois to act on this guidance immediately without any need for official state action,” he said. “Even for events that will attract crowds less than 250 people, it is critically important that organizers think about who is likely to attend, and if likely attendees include individuals in vulnerable populations such as the elderly or those who are immunosuppressed.”

He clarified that events drawing in more than 250 will be canceled or postponed until May 1. Pritzker also said he had spoken with owners of major sports teams in the city and asked them to cancel games or play without spectators until May 1, as well.

Following Pritzker’s mandates, Chicago Public Schools also are encouraged to cancel or postpone any school events. So far, there are no plans for school closures at CPS, Lightfoot said.

Suburban districts such as Downers Grove Grade School District 58 and Sterling Morton High District 201 announced Thursday that upcoming after school programs, practices and family-focused events were canceled. Stevenson High School in Lake County, however, has closed its school until April 6.

With the Illinois Primary Election only five days away, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle echoed Pritzker and Lightfoot, as they encouraged local residents to go out and vote. The three shared that residents, who want to avoid the crowds at the polls on March 17, have voting options.

For more questions on COVID-19, contact the IDPH hotline at 1-800-889-3931. The hotline is for general questions only, not for assessing individual symptoms.

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