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Illinois hits three new milestones in COVID-19 testing, still not enough for high school football, Pritzker says

Also on Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported seven additional deaths from the coronavirus, as well as 1,477 new confirmed coronavirus cases.

Access Family Health Center in Englewood started providing coronavirus testing in May.
Access Family Health Center in Englewood started providing coronavirus testing in May.
Sun-Times file

Illinois is doing very well in testing for the coronavirus — just not well enough to allow high school football players back on the field, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.

Pritzker announced the state had hit three new testing milestones and touted Illinois as a national leader in this area, trailing only California and New York, but said financial and safety barriers still prevent certain high school sports from resuming.

“I want fall sports. I want fall football, in high school, to play. I do,” Pritzker said. “But what I want most of all is to keep these kids and their parents and their grandparents and their neighbors safe.”

While some high school sports are being played, Pritzker said those “that are high-contact and likely to result in the exchange of sweat and saliva,” such as football, are not viable for the foreseeable future. He applauded college and professional football teams for their coronavirus measures but said high schools can’t afford the intensive testing measures needed to keep athletes safe.

Also Monday, the state health department reported seven additional coronavirus deaths, as well as 1,477 new confirmed coronavirus cases. In all, since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has had of 275,735 cases, including 8,457 deaths, in 102 counties. The statewide positivity rate is at 3.5%.

Pritzker focused on three highlights Monday:

• Illinois has increased its daily capacity for administering tests to 52,000.

• Illinois labs reported they had processed 74,000 tests in one day, a single-day high.

• This past weekend, Illinois became one of the first five states to administer 5 million tests, joining California, Florida, New York and Texas.

“Testing is a critical step in reducing the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the state health department. “Currently IDPH has 11 community-based testing sites around the state, as well as mobile testing teams that are deployed each week to various locations throughout Illinois. Anyone can go there to get tested, or at any state testing site. You don’t have to have symptoms, or a doctor’s referral or order, and there is no cost to you for testing.”

After the statewide seven-day positivity rate dropped slightly once again, Pritzker said these benchmarks in testing rates bode well for protecting communities most adversely affected by the onset of the pandemic. Particularly, he pointed out those working in the meatpacking industry, elderly people living in nursing homes and Black and Brown communities statewide.

“The reason that Illinois is doing as well as it is, is because we’ve been listening to the experts,” said Pritzker. “So we’re going to continue to do so.”