Illinois Legislature

Illinois State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, speaks during session at the Illinois State Capitol in May. 

The state of Illinois has the third-best COVID-19 testing capacity of the country and is doing the most testing of other states in the region, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.

A state Senator in a region with restrictions the governor put on businesses said the testing data is flawed and mitigations are “destroying livelihoods.” The senator said the restrictions need to be lifted.

In Springfield on Monday, Pritzker said Illinois has the best COVID-19 testing capacity in the region.

“We’re third-highest among all the states,” Pritzker said. “We’re certainly the highest in the Midwest, which I’m very proud of.”

Illinois’ most recent daily testing capacity exceeded 74,000 tests. The total number of tests conducted every day is tallied on a seven-day rolling average, something the governor is using to put restrictions on businesses in regions he’s carved out. Under his plan, if a region had a threshold higher than 8 percent, business restrictions would kick in.

Pritzker said restrictions have been relaxed in Will and Kankakee counties, which is Region 7 in the COVID-19 reopening plan he put in place in May. The governor said the region’s rate of positive tests per total tests conducted is going down. Region 4, the Metro East area’s positivity rate, is on its way below the threshold, he said.

“Actually, I saw recently it might be dropping below 7 [percent], so I’m prayerful and hopeful that it will get there and we can remove the mitigations that are on them,” Pritzker said.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said he doesn’t think the testing data has been complete in Region 4 because it doesn’t include the negative results from Illinois residents who use a hospital system in the St. Louis area. He said the mitigations keeping bars and restaurants from allowing dine-in service is “destroying livelihoods.”

“Gov. Pritzker needs to show some leadership and immediately cancel these mitigation measures that he had put in place based on the region’s positivity rate because that positivity rate number is not accurate; I have no confidence in it whatsoever,” Schimpf said.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Monday state officials are in talks with Barnes-Jewish Hospital to get the latest numbers to ensure accuracy.

“We obviously can only calculate and do math off the lab tests that we receive,” Ezike said. “We were made aware of the fact that Barnes Jewish particularly, had lots of tests from Illinoisans from the Metro East area, so we have worked with them. We’ve worked with their hospital leadership, their laboratory leadership, to make sure they’re sending those lab results electronically so that they can be counted toward the total to give us the most accurate number.”

“To me, it’s extremely frustrating that they did this, and I don’t think it was anywhere close to accurate at all,” Schimpf said.

Schimpf said it’s time to look at getting the state to pay financial penalties to the businesses and even suggested increasing the threshold of payouts for founded claims in this regard.

Despite the state’s COVID-19 testing achievements the governor heralded Monday, he said it still is not good enough for all youth sports to open back up.

All other states in the region have some level of youth contact sports, though there are some county-level restrictions in places such as Missouri. Coaches joined parents and student-athletes at rallies in Chicago and Springfield during the weekend demanding they be allowed to play. To those parents who say they know how to parent their children better than the governor does, Pritzker continued to stand by his decision to not let sports such as football be played competitively.

“I don’t doubt that they’re good parents, I don’t; and I know that many of them want their kids to play, and some of those kids want to be able to play because they want to develop a record so that they can possibly get a scholarship to college, and I want that for them, too,” Pritzker said.

But, Pritzker said the virus still is out there despite all other states in the region allowing full fall sports.

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