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Sangamon County Reports Hundreds Of Pending COVID-19 Tests From Private Labs

Medical and health officials answer questions about the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Springfield
Mary Hansen
NPR Illinois
Public officials and leaders of Springfield's healthcare organizations answer questions about the first two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sangamon County.

There are six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sangamon County, including one new case reported Wednesday, according to a news release from the Sangamon County Department of Public Health and Springfield’s four major healthcare organizations. 

The county reported one death last week, a 71-year-old woman from Florida.

Credit Sangamon County Department Of Public Health
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health releases a daily tally of test results for COVID-19.

The groups also reported that results from 265 tests are pending, and 101 more are negative, for a total of 372 tests performed in Sangamon County. That’s up from 54 tests reported on Tuesday.

The majority of the increase represents tests local hospitals and clinics sent to private labs in the last two weeks.

The health department and healthcare organizations developed a process to track and report screening sent to third-party labs, in addition to tests approved by the county and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Gail O’Neill, director of the county health department, said despite the higher number of tests, there is still not a full picture of how the disease has spread in the community.

“The testing is of high-risk people," she said. "We're getting them in and some first responders in the testing pool, but it's not a general public pool of testing.”

The groups also outlined the different screening priorities for public versus private screening. For tests approved through the public health department, those who have symptoms of COVID-19 (a fever or cough for example) and are a hospital patient, live in a nursing home or other group setting, or have been in contact with someone with a confirmed case will have priority.

Local hospitals and clinics follow similar priorities for testing sent to private labs. They will also prioritize people who have symptoms and are senior citizens, healthcare workers, immunosuppressed, or pregnant.

O’Neill said the strategy to combat the spread remains the same.

“We don't want people to lose sight of staying home and the social distancing messages, it still needs to continue," she said. Households should only send one person to the grocery store, for example, O'Neill said, and not host dinner parties or playdates.  

Results take one to two days from public labs, and four to six on average for private labs. The county will report results from all tests done in its daily tally. Contact tracing – or figuring out and communicating with anyone whom the person with COVID-19 has had close contact with – is the responsibility of the county health department.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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