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At his daily briefing this afternoon, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that the State surpassed 16,000 tests for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, and the positive rate was down to 17%. Getting the rate down to below 10% is important to safely open the economy, according to some researchers. 

COVID-19 Infections Are Still Increasing

The number of Evanston residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 increased by 15 cases today, April 24, for a total of 288 cases, according to information provided by the City of Evanston. The trend is shown in the above chart. 

To date, a total of 9 Evanstonians have died due to COVID-19, one more than yesterday.    

For Chicago, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew from 15,073, yesterday to 16,112 today; the cases in Cook County grew from 25,811 yesterday to 27,616 today; and the number of cases in Illinois grew from 36,934 yesterday to 39,658 today. The trend is shown in the first chart in the chart box.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Director of Illinois Department of Public Health, said that there were 2,724 new cases reported in Illinois in the last 24 hours. This is the highest number of new cases in a single day to date. Dr. Ezike said the high number may be due in part to the high number of tests  given that day. The trend of new cases is shown in the second chart in the chart box.

The cases between April 10 and 14 increased on an average of 7.2% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 15 and 19 is 5.5% each day over the total on the previous day. The average percentage increase between April 20 and 24 is 5.1%.

The five-day average is decreasing – in part because the denominator (i.e., the number of cases) is increasing.

The number of deaths increased by 108 to a total of 1,795.

Dr. Ezike also reported that the number of hospitalization due to COVID-19 increased to 4,828; and the number COVID-119 patients in ICU rooms was 1,225 and the number on ventilators was 709. The State’s hospitals have capacity to handle this number of patients.

Testing

“Vital to our efforts to reduce social restrictions, get our economy going and keeping the residents safe is the expansion of testing for COVID-19 infection,” said Gov. Pritzker.

He reported that the number of tests for COVID-19 jumped to 16,124 in the last 24-hour period.

In the first part of this week, the State was averaging about 6,750 tests per day. Yesterday it surpassed 9,000 tests in a day. Jumping to 16,124 in a single day, is a major improvement

Gov. Pritzker added that the overall positive rate for this latest batch of tests is about 17%, which is below the cumulative average of 21%.

“It’s a positive sign when more people are getting tested and there is a lower ratio of positives,” said the Governor.

The World Health Organization said the maximum rate is 10%, before opening an economy safely. A higher rate means that there are likely many people in the community who have the infection and who have not been tested.

Gov. Pritzker set a goal weeks ago to reach 10,000 tests per day. He said, “Surpassing 10,000 tests is an important milestone, not only because it allows us to isolate more of those who are COVID positive so they don’t spread the infection, but also because it moves us in the direction of expanding our surveillance for outbreaks.

“More testing means we can potentially lower the infection rate. So we’re going to continue to work to push that number [of tests] up. Our ability to test and get results quickly is key to our ability to map the presence of this virus and to gradually reduce our mitigation measures and get people back to work.

“In the face of this virus, testing is really key to everything else we need to do to get Illinois moving again.”

He said the State has worked with Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana, and others, who are playing a key role in developing VTM and assisting in procuring swabs. “Those supplies have allowed our State labs to more than double our daily output in the last week,” he said. “We anticipate being able to push that number higher in the coming days. That’s just for our State-owned labs.”

He said the State has also partnered with hospitals and commercial labs, where the State provides supplies and they test more specimens.

He added that the State has also increased access to more testing facilities across the State by partnering with federally qualified health care centers and by opening five drive-through testing centers.

“We now have 112 public testing sites in every one of IDPH’s 11 regions,” he said. In addition, there are health care providers that conduct testing for their own existing patients.

Dr. Ezike likewise said, “COVID-19 testing is critical. It is not only important to identify individuals who need to be isolated or treated in a hospital, but is also informs our efforts on how to stop the spread and to identify the areas where there is more spread. We need to know at what level the virus is circulating, areas that we need to implement more aggressive targeted efforts.

“Testing is one of the very key elements to helping us to stop the spread and to help us to overcome the pandemic.”

Gabrielle Cummings, the President of NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Highland Park Hospital, said NorthShore, under the direction of Dr. Karen Kaul, was the first health system in Illinois to implement its own fully validated in-house test. She said NorthShore has capacity to test 1,200 people per day, and that it has tested about 25,000 people for COVID-19, about 13% of all tests in the State.

“We know that testing is a critical component to opening the economy and at NorthShore University HealthSystem, we look forward to our continued participation with the State to expand our capability and testing services to win the fight against COVID-19,” Ms. Cummings said.

Gov. Pritzker also touched on testing for antibodies to COVID-19. He said, “In theory, those tests could be an effective tool … because an antibody offers the potential for more security.”

He added, though, that as of today, there are no antibody tests that have been proven to show accurate and consistent diagnosis for COVID-19 antibodies.

He said once science shows that there is a reliable antibody test and that the antibodies provide immunity from future COVID-19 infection, the State will consider using them.