Metro East to have more testing centers and rapid testing machines as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

By: Angela Simmons, Weekly Editor

As Illinois heads towards their peak and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases increase, Governor JB Pritzker announced the emergence of new testing centers, the use of VA hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients, and where the rapid test machines would be distributed.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced 1,465 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 68 additional deaths. In St. Clair County, IDPH is reporting 159 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That’s an increase of 90 cases in the past week. There has been a ninth death- a woman in her 90s with underlying conditions. Zip code 62269 is reporting 16 cases, and 62221 is reporting 18 cases. The county is reporting 533 negative tests and 117 pending results.

Samantha Bierman, the St. Clair County Emergency Response Coordinator, addressed requests for the number of recovered patients in the county. “What I would like to clarify is that when other counties say ‘recovered,’ that simply means the number of people that have finished their 14 day quarantine period. As we know, the 14 day quarantine period is a minimum. You could still have symptoms past 14 days, so the 14 day quarantine period is what they’re referring to when they say ‘recovered patients,’ that’s how many people have completed that 14 days,” she explained.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 17,887 cases, including 596 deaths, in 83 counties in Illinois.

Candis Cross, the St. Clair County 911 PSAP Manager, reported that calls are down, but they are receiving calls reporting parties, improper social distancing, calls asking for medical diagnosis, and heightened call volumes with reports of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Christopher Belt, Illinois State Senator 57th District, announced that he and Illinois State Representative LaToya Greenwood have been able to get testing sites set up in East St. Louis and Cahokia, with the potential for another testing center in West Belleville. Belt said that the sites in East St. Louis and Cahokia will also have the rapid testing machines that can give answers within 35 minutes.

Belt and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern talked about the uptick in cases in the area, and the importance of social distancing to flatten the curve, as Illinois has not yet reached its predicted peak. According to updated projections from the University of Washington, Illinois could hit their peak this weekend.

Dr. Daniel Normansell from HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital said cases are still edging upward so they aren’t seeing the flattening yet, and encouraged people to maintain social distancing even after it flattens, because that means cases are steady, not necessarily trending downward.

Governor Pritzker spoke about the virus’s impact on black and brown communities, on disabled populations, and those living in areas like Chicago and the greater St. Louis area. To help combat the growing numbers, additional testing centers will be added in Chicago and Metro East region.

To help, Illinois will be utilizing hotel rooms to help add safe housing alternatives for those needing to quarantine after positive coronavirus disease tests that are having low level symptoms, those needing to live elsewhere to avoid infecting family members or roommates, and for those that are listed as contacts of the infected that need to quarantine to be sure they don’t get the virus.

“In the Metro East region, starting next week, three locations of Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation System will be taking 470 specimens per day and sending them to Anderson Hospital in Madison County,” Pritzker said, adding that he couldn’t thank Anderson enough for assisting in the testing.

More state run testing centers and labs are opening, and Illinois will be dispensing the 15 rapid test machines they recently received. Seven of the machines are going to federally qualified health centers, two are going to Chicago’s south and west sides, and the remaining three will go to the East St. Louis and surrounding regions. Another three will go to the Illinois Department of Human Services across the state, and the final five will go to correctional centers across the state,” Pritzker explained.

He also explained that the VA hospitals will be used to treat COVID-19 cases as needed, serving as backup for other hospital symptoms as their beds fill.

He added that in times such as these, when the state is at war with this pandemic, when minority groups such as the black and brown population, the disabled, and more are being affected at an increasingly higher rater, that we must show each other increased kindness. The governor also encouraged people to celebrate the Easter holiday in their own homes, and to reach out to family members through digital means like FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and others.