Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Frank Haney: 60% of county’s pending COVID-19 tests are missing

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD – More than 2,100 COVID-19 specimens collected at the UIC Health Sciences Campus are nowhere to be found, according to Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney.

Haney said National Guard teams began collecting nose-swab specimens since April 24 and have been sending them to a third-party vendor for processing.

“Zero tests have been reported to the Winnebago County Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health from this vender,” Haney said in a letter to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. “Our local team has repeatedly attempted to resolve this issue and communicated this issue, beginning as early as Monday, April 27, 2020, with the state. A 3-4 day processing time has turned into a 13-day process with no end in sight.”

The missing specimens represent 28% of all tests conducted in the county and more than 60% of those currently pending.

“This type of situation severely undercuts our ability to trust the data, make data-driven decisions and paint an accurate picture of our public health reality in our community and at the state level,” Haney said. “And, as we know, this is directly  tied to our ability to reopen as laid out in the 5 phase reopening plan.

Officials made the decision to close the site Wednesday afternoon until the situation was resolved. They walked back that call a few hours later.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health has developed a work-around to obtain copies of paper test results for all who were already tested through this location and will ensure that the Winnebago County Health Department receives results for individuals in their county, as well as other impacted local health departments in the region,” County Health Director Dr. Sandra Martell said in a release. “Once results are received at the local health department, we will work to notify those tested and conduct contact tracing. We are thankful for the advocacy and prompt attention to this critical issue that allows resumption of testing at this site uninterrupted.”

The UIC testing site will be open at 8 a.m., Thursday, Martell said. The site at Auburn High School is also open.

“Through the coordinated efforts of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office, Winnebago County Health Department has been informed that the Community Based Testing Site located at the University of Illinois Health Sciences Campus in Rockford will begin using an established laboratory that has demonstrated capacity and the ability to report electronically.”

As of Wednesday, there are 734 cases of COVID-19 in Winnebago County. There have been 8,260 tests administered. There have been 3,756 negative tests while 3,770 are pending. Twenty-two people have died from complications of the respiratory disease.

The governor’s office was not available for comment.

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