Springfield, IL - The Illinois Senate Public Health Committee addressed the growing concern over the novel coronavirus Tuesday afternoon. This was the first time lawmakers were able to ask the Department of Public Health questions about the virus. IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike stressed the risk to Illinois resident is low. But, she explained the state is still planning and preparing for all possibilities.
There are 116 individuals under investigation for the virus in Illinois, but the vast majority have tested negative. Ezike said there were 22 people in the process of getting tested on Tuesday. She explained there are roughly 2,200 testing kits available for local and state healthcare groups to use right now. Wednesday, the Director is heading to Washington D.C. to testify in front of Congress for more testing kits and extra funding for preparedness.
"Once we have a commercially available test that all hospitals can do their own tests, then they don't need to send anything to us," Ezike said. "Then we're hoping they can do point of care testing that you can have results in an hour or two hours. That would streamline the process of course."
Ezike also noted there are testing centers already running in Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale. She mentioned the CDC is working on a vaccine for the virus, but it won't be available for at least six months. Other parts of the country are dealing with "community spread," where there is no linkage between individuals getting the virus.
"It is likely that we will have some level of community spread. The issue is how much. Is it going to reach to the level where we need to start closing down events and shutting down mass gatherings," Ezike stated.
Major events are being canceled across the state, including the annual Inspired Home Show at the McCormick Place Convention Center. Chicago election officials urge voters to vote by mail if they are concerned about the spread of virus at the polls. Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) asked if there is any potential need for schools to close. The Director said there is no need to make a decision at this time.