Largest one-day spike in COVID-19 cases as state ramps up tracing program
Illinois experienced its largest single-day spike in new coronavirus cases Friday as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced plans for an $80 million contact-tracing operation.
State health officials announced 3,137 new infections along with the deaths of 105 more residents from the virus.
That's the most new infections in a 24-hour period the state has recorded. Testing also is ramping up, with 14,821 new results and 21.2% of those positive for the disease.
Statewide, 56,055 people have been infected and 2,457 have died.
Just as the state has stepped up its testing program -- which averaged 13,579 tests per day in the last week -- Pritzker said the state is preparing to scale up the state's infection tracing program.
"Contact tracing is one of the most critical tools we have to reduce the spread rate, speed up diagnoses and seek to halt outbreaks before they happen," Pritzker said.
He called it an "army" of nearly 4,000 state employees.
The state has hired Dr. Wayne Duffus, an infectious disease specialist, to oversee development of the contact tracing program.
Duffus said he hopes to have the program going by the end of the month, which will require a massive amount of hiring and training.
"We're getting the pieces together we need and trying to cover any potential limitations that may arise," he said. "Contact tracing is a skill that can be done by anyone who's bright, interested and has a charming personality."
Duffus described the process of creating the program as turning a dial to increase capacity, rather than flicking a switch from off to on. Duffus said inquiries already are coming in from those interested in positions with the state program.
The point of contact tracing allows the state to quickly find out who an infected person has come into contact with so state investigators can urge those potentially infected with the virus into self-isolation. The state and county health departments will help with food, laundry, housing and medications for those who may be infected and need additional resources.
Duffus noted these types of tracing programs have been around for centuries and have been employed in other pandemics and epidemics.
"Just to be clear, the staff needed will be large and varied," Duffus said.
Friday also marked the start of a 30-day extension of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order, which was met by protests in Chicago and Springfield.
Pritzker remained unmoved on the decision to extend the stay-at-home order.
"There are a few hundred people exercising their right to free speech, which I will defend to the death their right to do," Pritzker said. "But the millions of people who stayed home are the ones who truly deserve to be commended."
The order loosened some restrictions, including allowing retailers to sell items for delivery and curbside pickup, as well as opening golf courses and boating with some limitations.