SPRINGFIELD — Illinois public health officials completed more than 16,000 tests for COVID-19 in 24 hours, surpassing for the first time the 10,000-per-day mark that Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday called a milestone on the way to tracking the deadly virus and ending tight restrictions on social interaction.
But Pritzker, who on Thursday extended the statewide stay-at-home order, indicated there's a long way to go for Illinois.
"We need to have a tracking and tracing capability that would cover everybody that has tested positive," Pritzker said. "You want every person to test positive not only to self-isolate, or if they need to seek treatment to seek treatment, but you need also to notify all the people that they've been in contact with. And that's very difficult to do when you're talking about thousands of people."
Dr. Ngoze Ezike with the Illinois Department of Public Health reported a record one-day increase in the number of infections statewide on Friday, 2,724, to bring the total to 39,658. An additional 108 people died, bringing that total to 1,795.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or modest symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia.
Comprehensive testing and tracing will help experts identify when the number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing, also known as "bending the curve." Pritzker reiterated Friday that reopening businesses and loosening movement restrictions would likely receive consideration if there are 14 consecutive days of decreases.
Meanwhile, the state is working with county health departments to hire trained workers to set about tracking down anyone who might have been exposed to the virus, according to Dr. Wayne Duffus, a senior medical officer for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"We need to know what's going on in disparate regions of the state," Duffus said. "So we have to develop a method where they can report to us, all the data, put together and then we know whether we're bending the curve."
That means that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, she or he will be asked to reveal anyone who has been within 6 feet of the infected person for 20 minutes or more — going back 48 hours before the patient developed symptoms.
The hired tracers must be smart, sensitive and trustworthy with confidential information, Duffus said. They'll reach out to contacts by text message with a series of questions. Failure to respond will prompt a phone call from the contact tracer, followed by a personal visit. Exposure to an infected person can require 14 days of self-isolation to prevent further transmission.