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COVID-19 test shortage forces Chicago area clinics to halt curbside testing

Physicians Immediate Care centers website said because of a lack of tests, “we are currently unable to test for COVID-19 in Illinois.”

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A COVID19 test shortage forced Physicians Immediate Care centers to stop offering curbside tests in Illinois,
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

A shortage of test kits forced a major chain of Chicago area clinics to halt curbside testing for the coronavirus at dozens of locations.

A message appearing Thursday on the Physicians Immediate Care website said, “Due to the limited availability of test kits, we are currently unable to test for COVID-19 in Illinois.”

“We hope to have more tests soon, and we will update our website when available,” the message said. “Testing is still available in Indiana.”

Todd Vang, the company’s chief operating officer, told the Sun-Times that testing would resume on Friday at 34 sites statewide, including in Chicago in Bucktown, Edgewater, Jefferson Park, near Peterson Park, Lincoln Park, North Center, Old Town, Six Corners and the West Loop.

“When our supply chain is disrupted due to supply or delivery issues and we do not have tests, we halt our testing and also post that on our website,” said Vang, who wouldn’t say how many times testing has been interrupted due to similar supply chain issues.

Testing is key to easing stay-at-home orders, and curbside testing in cars makes the process easier for people with symptoms. During Thursday’s state press briefing, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of Illinois Department of Public Health, said officials “want to get as many people tested as possible.”

President Donald Trump often boasts about the nation’s testing capacity, though critics hold that the country’s testing levels are still inadequate for getting a full sense of the true rate of infection.

“We have a great testing capacity now. It’s getting even better,” he said at Monday’s briefing. “There’s nobody close to us in the world. And we certainly have done a great job on testing.”

When testing comes back online at the Physicians Immediate Care clinics, Vang said his they would continue to use the Abbott ID NOW test, which has come under scrutiny after a recent study showed it produced a high rate of false negative results.

“We use the ID Now as a point of care test (meaning we swab the patient and directly insert into the machine). That is the recommended method by Abbott of using the instruments,” Vang said in a text message. He added that the clinics also use lab tests in some cases.