First responders, medical workers tested for coronavirus at Walmarts in Joliet, Northlake

Tests were reserved for frontline health care workers who have potentially been exposed to the COVID-19 disease.

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Medical personnel help each other suit up at a federal COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in the parking lot of Walmart, Sunday March 22, 2020 in North Lake, Ill. For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP) ORG XMIT: ILCHS102

Medical personnel help each other suit up at a federal COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in the parking lot of Walmart, Sunday March 22, 2020, in Northlake, Ill.

Pat Nabong/For the Sun-Times

Portions of two Chicago-area Walmart parking lots became makeshift drive-thru test sites for the novel coronavirus Sunday.

Tests at the Walmart locations in suburban Joliet and Northlake were reserved for first-responders and health care workers who have potentially been exposed to the COVID-19 disease.

Each site opened from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and had a limit of 150 tests each.

“These initial sites...will help us better understand the operational, public health and safety considerations associated with federal, state and local efforts to expand access to mobile testing,” said Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart.

Illinois Hospitals Association spokesman Danny Chun said it was impossible to know how many first responders and health care workers have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“We have 211 hospitals in the state. You’d have to know who’s been exposed to the disease and where people with COVID-19 have gone. Right now we don’t have the answer to that,” he said. “Bottom line, there aren’t enough tests.”

The Walmart locations are the company’s first to offer drive-thru testing for COVID-19 in the country. Walmart has not said how many more drive-thru testing sites it plans to open. The tests were administered by personnel with the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a Walmart spokesperson.

More than a week ago, President Donald Trump said a vast network of drive-thru testing for COVID-19 at pharmacies and big-box retailers nationwide was imminent but that has “so far failed to materialize,” the Associated Press reported Sunday.

Walgreens has also said it plans to open drive-thru testing sites in Illinois but the company has not specified when they will open or at which locations.

Illinois health officials reported an additional 296 confirmed cases of the coronavirus Sunday, putting the state’s total at 1,049 cases across 30 counties.

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