Illinois reopens COVID-19 testing sites closed due to unrest

People wait in line in their cars to get tested for COVID-19 at Roseland Community Hospital on April 3, 2020. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Ten state-run testing sites for the coronavirus reopened Wednesday after Illinois officials shut them down on Sunday in response to unrest following protests over the death of George Floyd.

An 11th testing site at a vehicle emissions facility in Waukegan is relocating and will reopen on Thursday, state officials said.

Additional security will be at the testing sites to replace those reassigned to help respond to unrest in the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said in a statement. Pritzker has activated 625 members of the Illinois National Guard since Sunday to support local law enforcement.

Illinois officials have encouraged anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested for the virus and expanded eligibility last month to people working in healthcare and at other essential jobs, along with anyone who has been exposed to a confirmed case.

On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 982 new cases of COVID-19 and 97 deaths, bringing statewide totals since the start of the pandemic to 123,830 cases and 5,621 deaths.

State health officials estimate that 92% of those in the state who have had the virus have recovered.

Chicago loosened restrictions on many businesses Wednesday, including allowing outdoor dining for restaurants and coffee shops.

City officials reported fewer instances of vandalism or damage to businesses on Tuesday night, but some owners still kept their properties shuttered Wednesday with boards covering windows and doors.

The state relaxed its own restrictions on businesses starting Friday but Chicago officials said they wanted to be more cautious due to the high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the city.

Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the rate of residents testing positive for the virus has continued to decline, but officials will be watching that trend closely.

“With a lot of the events of the last few days, there have been increased opportunities for COVID-19 to spread,” she said, referring to large protests held across the city since Saturday. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Arwady said people need to keep following public health guidance including wearing face coverings and regularly washing their hands as the city loosens restrictions, increasing opportunities for exposure to the virus. She encouraged people with existing health conditions and older than 60 to be particularly cautious.