PEORIA — Gov. JB Pritzker used the location of the state-run COVID-19 test site at the Peoria Civic Center as the backdrop for a historic announcement.
"As of today, Illinois has tested over 1 million people for COVID-19," he said. "This milestone is the result of so many people working behind the scenes . . . people willing to battle it out to create a public testing infrastructure that is accurate, efficient, and accessible. And we are still building, but I am very proud to be one of the earliest states to hit this one million landmark."
Pritzker visited Peoria one day after the announcement that free testing is now available to everyone, regardless of symptoms.
"You don’t need a doctor’s referral, you don’t need an appointment, you don’t need insurance, you don’t even need to have any symptoms," he said. "And here at the Civic Center, which also offers walk-up services, you don’t even need a car."
As he spoke, a steady of line of cars utilized the drive-thru where members of the Illinois National Guard wrote down information and helped people administer their own tests.
In the last 24 hours in Illinois, 18,903 tests have been administered and 1,156 came back positive, leading to a single-day case positivity rate of 6.1 percent, Pritzker said.
Fifty-nine people died since yesterday, for a total of 5,795 deaths to date. As of midnight last night, 2,911 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
"At the height of this crisis, that number was over 5,000," said Pritzker.
Also at the press conference was U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, who talked about efforts to secure a federal bailout for communities economically devastated by the COVID-19 shutdown.
"Let me tell you how important the Heros Act is, that would literally bring tens of millions of dollars to Peoria County," she said. "Peoria County needs this money, and when we’re looking at surrounding counties we see the same thing. All 14 of the counties in my congressional district, and 102 counties in the state, would all get help. That goes down to the smallest town. The senate has to take that up. It is a major, major piece of legislation."
Peoria County Chairman Andrew Rand confirmed the need. Peoria County is $33 million in the hole, and the city of Peoria has a deficit of $54 million due to lost tax revenue from the economic shutdown.
"The disruption in our revenue sources is irreversible," Rand said. "We can’t get that money back. So to the extent that the Heroes Act may be the plan that helps our state and local government — we need that, Congresswoman Bustos, because we are getting ready to lay off an awful lot of people, permanently."
Everyone in attendance also spoke about the protests that have rocked Illinois and the nation following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth spoke about the need for change in a country torn by systemic racism.
"Why is it that African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19? It’s because disproportionately African Americans live in congregate settings, and disproportionately African Americans are the essential workers … often making minimum wage to care for others to keep this economy going," she said. "And at the same time, African Americans are those that suffer the most from police brutality. And the reason why they are all interlinked is because of an historic system of racism in this country.
"From cradle to grave, being black in America is a specific kind of injustice for many folks. We pass it down to our children. But we also pass down something else… resilience to fight for a better day … we have to continue to chart a new day and a better way forward."
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.