CHICAGO — The City of Chicago will open six additional COVID-19 testing sites in coming weeks as officials hope to ramp up testing in the city to 10,000 per day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.
The new sites will be focused in neighborhoods which have been hit hardest by the spread of the coronavirus disease, Lightfoot said.
“These new sites represent a major step in our city’s fight against COVID-19 not only by identifying cases, but also by dramatically improving our knowledge of this virus and its movement across our communities,” Lightfoot said.
Later this week, locations in Little Village and Belmont Cragin will begin offering tests for residents showing symptoms of the coronavirus disease. Then later this month, three additional sites will open in Englewood, Gage Park and Pullman.
A drive-thru testing site for people who are not showing any symptoms of the disease will open at Guaranteed Rate Field in Bridgeport, offering tests for frontline workers and individuals identified during contact tracing and cluster investigations, Lightfoot said.
The sites will be launched with assistance from Community Organized Relief Effort, an organization started by Sean Penn to address the earthquake in Haiti that has shifted to organizing COVID-19 testing efforts in other cities.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said dozens of places are already providing COVID-19 tests in Chicago, including community health centers, urgent care clinics and hospitals.
“If you become sick with symptoms similar to coronavirus, we would like your first to call to be to your doctor or to your healthcare provider, that’s the best place to get testing,” Arwady said.
Arwady said the city expects the testing rate in Chicago to go from about 3,000 per day to closer to 4,500 by the end of May. This is part of the city’s larger goal to be able to test about five percent of Chicago’s population each day. Under the mayor’s plan to reopen Chicago, the city needs to be able to rest 135,000 residents per month.
The newer sites will also be using a saliva-based test developed by Curative-Korva, Arwady said, which does not rely on swabs and other materials that are in high demand.
As of May 3 about 80,000 people have been tested in the Chicago area, with about 25 percent of individuals testing positive. Arwady said the city hopes to bring that number down to 20 percent by the end of May as well.
Asked about how the city will handle churches violating social distancing measures included in the state’s stay-at-home order, Lightfoot said she, “isn’t going to send in the police to arrest parishioners.”
“My approach always is to bring people into compliance through education and dialogue and I hope we will be successful in getting there,” Lightfoot said.