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Coronavirus

Illinois to test for COVID-19 at long-term care facilities that haven't yet seen positive cases

The virus has now reached 95 of Illinois’ 102 counties

Lakewood Chapel Pastor John Elleson, left, his wife, Sue Elleson, center, hands out one of 10,000 available masks to a woman at the chapel in Arlington Heights, Ill., Saturday, April 18, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Lakewood Chapel Pastor John Elleson, left, his wife, Sue Elleson, center, hands out one of 10,000 available masks to a woman at the chapel in Arlington Heights, Ill., Saturday, April 18, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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The state of Illinois will begin testing for COVID-19 at long-term care facilities that haven’t reported any positive cases yet, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday.

A day after releasing data that indicated at least 286 people have died from the coronavirus at long-term care facilities in Illinois, Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike laid out changes the state is making to its approach at these congregate facilities.

It came as IDPH announced 1,151 new cases of COVID-19 and an additional 59 deaths on Monday. Illinois has now seen 31,508 positive cases of the virus. A total of 1,349 people have died throughout the state. The state has tested 148,358 people.

Pritzker said that if the state can identify cases at long-term care facilities early on, it can hopefully prevent outbreaks – like the one at Symphony of Joliet, a nursing home where 23 people have died and 81 have tested positive for the virus.

“We’re prioritizing testing at long-term care facilities that are home to our populations where a COVID-19 infection is more likely to lead to higher-severity cases, especially among black and brown communities,” Pritzker said.

Two facilities received tests over the weekend, and 10 more were expected to receive tests Monday. Pritzker said these facilities remain priority recipients for personal protective equipment, too.

IDPH is also ramping up testing of all staff at these facilities. Facilities with a confirmed positive case are now operating under the assumption that anyone with coronavirus symptoms has the virus.

Ezike noted that the there could be some lag in the data reported by the IDPH about long-term care facilities. That data are input by the local health departments, then compiled by the IDPH.

For this reason, virus counts and death tolls at long-term care facilities will be updated only once per week, Ezike said.

“It’s a little complex,” Ezike said. “We’re dealing with multiple reporting systems and a lot of players who have to put the information in. We at IDPH are doing all that we can to make sure we share all the information we can, while trying to be responsible and protect peoples’ privacy rights.”

As of Monday, Chicago has seen 13,013 confirmed cases of COVID-19, while the rest of Cook County has seen 9,088.

Lake County has seen 2,216 confirmed cases, DuPage 1,761, Will 1,692, Kane 638, McHenry 351, Kendall 138, Ogle 58, DeKalb 56, Whiteside 41, La Salle 30, Grundy 26, Lee 17, Bureau eight and Carroll six.

Newly reported deaths included 38 in Cook County. Seven died in Lake, four in DuPage, two in Madison and McHenry, and one each in Boone, Jackson, Jasper, Kane, Livingston and Will counties.

Cass and White counties reported their first cases. The virus has now reached 95 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

As of Sunday, the state had 4,599 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, with 40% of the state’s 3,100 ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

“With our current mitigation strategies in place, we may not have reached our peak yet, but your actions are helping to keep that peak as low as possible,” Pritzker said.

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