Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Governor: Illinois should hit COVID-19 peak in mid-April; state increases testing

By Greg Bishop

CHIAGO – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois could see a peak of COVID-19 cases sometime in mid-April, but he said there is not enough capacity and continues to demand more ventilators from the federal government. He also is ramping up tests.

Public health officials Sunday announced there have been around 28,000 tests in total. There are now 4,596 cases in 47 counties, including 65 deaths.

As of Sunday morning, the Illinois Department of Public Health said with 27,457 hospital beds in Illinois, around 15,500 were occupied. The occupancy rate for all beds is now at 56%. That’s up from 51.6% reported March 24.

For intensive care unit beds, of 2,584, there are 1,525 used, or 59% occupied. That’s up from 57.4% reported March 24.

Pritzker said he’s working to bring off-line hospitals online and looking at creating more hospital space in hotels and convention centers. But he’s also been demanding more ventilators from the federal government.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Debora Birx on Thursday said the federal government is managing where ventilators go based on need. Pritzker has said his requests for thousands of ventilators haven’t been met and on Saturday said he doesn’t want to wait on the White House strategy.

“We’re not relying upon that,” Pritzker said. “We’re just out in the market acquiring any piece of ventilator equipment that we can.”

Birx said they’ll be responsive to the needs as they arise.

“But to say that to the American people, to make the implication that when they need a hospital bed it’s not going to be there, or when they need that ventilator it’s not going to be there, we don’t have evidence of that right now,” Birx said.

As of Sunday morning, IDPH said in Illinois, of the 2,300 ventilators, 746 were occupied, or an occupancy rate of around 32%. That’s up from 28.4% reported March 24.

Pritzker praised Trump using the Defense Production Act being used on GM to make ventilators, but said the president should do that with factories across the country to make more ventilators.

Sunday, Pritzker said they’re ramping up tests. There were about 2,000 tests a day in private and public labs last week, he said, and now it’s up to 4,000. He hopes to soon have 10,000 tests done daily.

“This 10,000 a day marker will give us the data to run a more mathematically significant model that offers us improved insight into how well our interventions are working,” Pritzker said.

instead of waiting for the federal government to send tests, he said Illinois labs will be going around the clock as supplies are available. There will also be new robotics to assist in testing.

“We’re getting our first two machines on loan and will have them up and running on Tuesday, and we expect the others later this week,” he said.

Pritzker also said Illinois-based Abbott Labs’ new testing methods will help in that effort. There’s also an additional National Guard operated drive-thru test in McClain county with more planned elsewhere.

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.

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