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Illinois becomes first state to test for coronavirus

It’s expected to make test results available within 24 hours, official said.

Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks to members of the media about the first Chicago-area Coronavirus patient, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Chicago.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, speaks to reporters in late January about the first Chicago-area coronavirus case. State and local health officials announced Tuesday that Illinois has become the first state in the union to be able to do testing for the virus instate.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois has become the first state able to test for the new coronavirus without having to send specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health officials said Tuesday.

That means test results should typically be available in about 24 hours, officials said.

The CDC began sending out test kits last week to “selected qualified U.S. and international laboratories,” official said.

“The ability to do this testing will mean we will be able to detect any new cases of novel coronavirus earlier and prevent any possible spread,” Evonda Thomas-Smith, assistant director with the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a news release. “We understand there is concern about this new virus, which is why having test results back quickly can help reduce some of those concerns.”

To date, two Chicago residents have tested positive for the virus; both were recently released from the hospital. Another 44 test results have come back negative, health officials said.

Meanwhile, the governor’s office said Gov. J.B. Pritzker talked about his plans to protect against coronavirus during meetings with cabinet members and administration officials at the White House on Monday morning.

Pritzker was in Washington for meetings hosted by the National Governors Association on Sunday and Monday.

The state has also recently set up a hotline for people to call with questions about the virus. Chicago residents should call (312) 746-4835 Monday through Friday during business hours, and 311 during evenings, weekends and holidays, or email: coronavirus@chicago.gov.

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles