* Hannah Meisel at the Daily Line…
Pritzker announced Wednesday the state has acquired five high-volume RNA extractors, each of which should be able to run 200 tests per hour, from Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific.
However, the machines — distributed to Illinois’ three state labs — are still not running at the speed promised and are not giving lab technicians “the level of output that we want to see,” Pritzker said.
“More importantly, these tests are not producing valid results in a way that meets our exacting standards,” Pritzker added. “I am as impatient as the rest of you are, wanting to increase testing, but I will not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of speed. The tests and results they will provide are too important. We have to get this right.”
As a result, Illinois state labs will not be using the Thermo Fisher machines until they produce reliable results.
I was told by the administration yesterday that they tested those Thermo Fisher machines by feeding it samples from known positive patients, but the Thermo Fisher results were often coming back negative. The administration doesn’t want to deploy machines that aren’t reliable, of course, so they’re still working with the company.
* Back to Hannah…
Much touted tests from Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories that promise to give results for positive cases in as little as five minutes and negative cases as fast as 13 minutes will not help Illinois close the gap in testing, Pritzker said Wednesday.
Although the state received 15 Abbott machines last week from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Abbott’s promises to provide enough supplies to perform 88,000 tests per month will not materialize, Pritzker said.
The federal government “waylaid” the tests and sent them to private entities, such as private hospitals and labs, according to the governor.
“Unfortunately, it is our understanding now that the federal government redirected most of these early tests to private systems without our state input about where the tests would make the most impact,” Pritzker said. “Some of those machines will end up in Illinois and so that’s good. But not what we had expected, and we won’t have as many as we expected.”
Pritzker told reporters yesterday that the state only received 120 total tests. “That’s eight tests per machine for all of Illinois,” he said.
* So, what about private testing labs? Pritzker yesterday…
If we wanted to choose an easy, but less effective path, we could increase testing capacity through private labs used by the federal government. The problem is those labs take seven to 10 days to produce a result. People can end up on a ventilator before they ever get their testing result. That’s just not a timeline that I want to bet on.
* Pritzker laid out the path ahead…
No matter how much is beyond our control the buck stops with me. […]
We’re charting our own path forward. I’m putting my faith in the scientists and technicians, the academics and innovators here in Illinois to expand our test results. […]
Our researchers are working in an expedited fashion to get this additional new testing up and running, as soon as possible and distributing it to other institutions beyond our state labs that have our same type of equipment to continue increasing capacity statewide.
To ensure a steady stream of supplies, our in-state universities and local laboratories are creating our own raw materials, instead of relying upon the global supply chain, which is frankly in disarray. Our institutions are developing and distributing their own viral transport medium, known as VTM, and the necessary reagent locally. […]
We’re now running three shifts at one of our state labs, with the other two moving to match their capacity soon. And more than 96 locations across the state are now collecting specimens, this capacity has brought us the increase that we have already achieved. Today we surpassed 6000 tests in a 24 hour period.
* I was also told by the administration yesterday that Walgreens will start offering tests here “in the next few days.” The company is apparently getting some personal test kits, which people can use to test themselves for the virus.