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Will our “Normal” Days Last? Dr. Khare weighs in on new COVID strains and what to expect moving forward

No restrictions. None. Normal. Well, almost normal. Whatever you want to call where we are right now, it’s wonderful. Chicago is out and about, smiling and socializing. We even have full capacity Cubs games again. We’ve come a long way since the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives. But is it over? I asked Dr. Khare to offer his perspective on what’s next. Will we continue to see small spikes? Is the new strain going to threaten to shut things down again? Here’s what he had to say. 

Q: Should we be worried about new strains of COVID-19?

A: The CDC is watching new strains closely, as variants of the virus have the potential to spark new waves of illness. One variant in particular that is on the CDC watch list is the Delta strain (B.1.617.2). This mutation of COVID-19 was first detected in India in February 2021. India, as we’ve seen on the news, has suffered tremendous loss. Thousands of people got sick. This strain of COVID-19 is already in the United States. Whether it creates another round of illness is the real question, but here’s the data: If you have been vaccinated, this strain will not affect you. The only issue is for those who have not been vaccinated. There is a significant amount of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) that is pushed in the media (obviously, they need to get clicks and reads), but right now, in my medical opinion, this strain will not cause an increase in COVID-19 cases in those who are vaccinated.

Q: Will COVID-19 ever be gone from our lives? 

A: Probably not. However, it will likely become less problematic and we will learn to live with it. Vaccines, coupled with people having antibodies from previous infection, will limit new strains from spreading. When COVID-19 first entered the United States, we had no protection. It spread like wildfire and caused serious illness. Now, even if new COVID-19 strains continue to crop up, we have some level of protection. We learn more about the virus every day, which allows us to create effective vaccines and to be proactive in preventing its spread.

Q: Will additional vaccines be required? 

A: Much like flu viruses, COVID-19 viruses can mutate and change. For this reason it is entirely possible that we will one day have annual vaccines for COVID-19 variants. Scientists are continuing to study how well the existing vaccines protect against the variants. They are also astudying how long the vaccines will last and protect us. I suspect booster vaccines will be needed down the road, probably starting in October. You will probably need to get a booster from the same manufacturer as your original vaccine. 

Q: Do we still need to be tested for COVID-19 every time we get symptoms? 

A: While COVID-19 virus numbers are low currently, it’s still best to be tested if you have cold-like symptoms, a cough, fever or shortness of breath. Innovative Express Care continues to offer COVID-19 testing at our 1111 W. Diversey Parkway location. Testing and early identification of the virus allows you to quarantine and prevent spreading the illness to others. The days of dismissing symptoms and going to work sick or not are likely over. COVID-19 devastated many businesses as employee outbreaks occurred. For this reason, many will continue to require COVID tests and take a more proactive approach to employee health.

More Businesses Invest in Employee Health

Innovative Care for Business

The COVID pandemic put a tremendous strain on businesses. Many companies were unprepared for remote work and unsure how to implement safety protocols in the workplace. As we move forward from the pandemic and return to the office, Innovative Care is helping companies limit further disruptions. Innovative Care for Business grew from an employee testing program launched last summer, to a full concierge health service for companies.

Small Investment, Big Reward

Companies who take a proactive approach to employee health will experience fewer disruptions in the workplace due to illness. We are here to help companies develop policies to protect their workforce, as well as to offer immediate access to care when it’s needed. A full list of the services offered through Innovative Care for Business is below. 

  • Priority urgent care appointments (sick visits, injuries, medication refills, X-ray services)
  • Telemedicine appointments 7 days/week
  • Annual flu shots given at your workplace 
  • Annual biometric screening at your workplace (cholesterol, A1C, hemoglobin)
  • COVID-19 testing with results within 36 hours
  • Medical directorship to guide you
  • Patient navigator at your side
  • Access to Innovative Therapy, our integrated behavioral health services
  • Discount at Innovative MedSpa (10%)

Medical Directorship

Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “I got a guy” for all your employee health questions? That’s exactly what you get with Innovative Care for Business. We will help you modernize guidelines for symptomatic and sick employees. We will also keep an eye on virus activity and alert you if it begins to spike again, granting time for you to make adjustments in the workplace. Having Innovative by your side is like having a doctor down the hall to help determine what is in the best interest of the company and your employees. Nobody expected the COVID-19 pandemic. But you can be prepared for anything that comes your way in the future. Add Innovative Care to your team and keep your workforce healthy. 

For more information about Innovative Care for Business, visit us online

Enroll your business.

Your Physician May Be the Missing Link in Your Weight Loss Program

Weight Management Have you struggled with your weight for years? Do you start strong, but then fizzle out when beginning a new plan? Your physician may be the missing link. 

Being chronically overweight or obese is a health problem that can put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other serious diseases. So why isn’t your weight treated like other medical problems? Sure, your doctor may advise you to lose weight, watch your diet and exercise, but a quick mention during an annual physical is far from managing this chronic condition. 

Innovative Primary Care is stepping up to do more for our patients. We now offer Innovative Weight Management, a physician-led, 12-month weight loss plan to help you achieve success.  

About Innovative Weight Management

Obesity is a chronic health condition, and it should be treated as such. While some people may be able to simply watch what they eat and exercise regularly, it is just not that easy for others. This is not your fault. Genetics, lifestyle, physical health and many other factors come into play with weight. As a medical provider, we are acutely aware of the legitimate struggles that people face with their weight. Do this for your health. Let’s reach your goals together. Innovative Weight Management combines diet, exercise, physician support and for many patients, medication, to achieve your goals. 

Here’s what you get:

  • Physician Led Program
  • Benchmarks Recorded 
  • Insurance Accepted
  • Regular Check-ins (weekly for the first four weeks; monthly thereafter)
  • 12-Month Program 
  • Support in all elements of weight management: behavior, nutrition, physical activity and pharmacology. 
  • Complementary MedSpa consultation during your journey. 
Why it Works

Having your physician involved in your weight loss adds accountability and purpose. Weight loss is not just about how you look. It’s about your health. Your health matters. Having your physician by your side through this health endeavor, just as you do for other health problems, just makes sense. It’s also an important element that is not present with fad diets, quick-fixes, cleanses and other things you’ve tried. Innovative Weight Management is a 12-month program to educate, guide and motivate you to make lifestyle changes that will be long-term. Our approach is based on guidance from OMA (Obesity Medicine Association), Cornell and Harvard. 

Start Your Journey Today

Make an appointment at Innovative Primary Care and talk to Dr. Gazzi and her team to get started. We are here to help you achieve a healthy weight, just as we manage blood pressure and other chronic health conditions.

Vaccinated and Exposed to COVID: Am I at Risk?

Vaccinated and Exposed to COVID: Am I at Risk?

Now that approximately 50 percent of people in Illinois are vaccinated, we are getting a lot of questions about virus risk and COVID-19 testing. Is it necessary for this group? Can they still catch COVID? Dr. Khare weighs in on some common questions below.

Q: I’m fully vaccinated, can I still catch COVID?

A: Yes, however the chance of you contracting COVID after you have been fully vaccinated remains low. If you do however catch the virus, your symptoms will be considerably less severe than if you had not been vaccinated. This is why it is very important for people to get vaccinated. While it may not offer 100 percent protection against the virus, it does offer up to a 95 percent protection against severe illness related to COVID. Thus far at Innovative Express Care, we’ve seen seven individuals who were fully vaccinated test positive for COVID-19. This may be due to different variants of the virus that are circulating.

Q: If I’m fully vaccinated, but was exposed to COVID, do I need to get tested?

A: According to the CDC, you do not need to be tested for COVID unless you experience symptoms. That said, if you are repeatedly in contact with a COVID positive person (i.e. a parent with a positive child or a caregiver to someone who tests positive), it doesn’t hurt to be tested. We often recommend this for caregivers, just to be sure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus and therefore potentially spreading it to other individuals. If you experience COVID symptoms, whether you had a known exposure to the virus or not, we do recommend testing. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you are carrying the virus. It is uncommon for vaccinated individuals to contract COVID, but it is possible. Testing could prevent someone else from getting sick, and possibly even save a life.

Q: Can a vaccinated person spread COVID to an unvaccinated person?

A: Yes, although this only happens if the vaccinated person contracts COVID themselves. That said, the risk remains low. Since it is however possible for a fully vaccinated person to contract COVID, there is the potential for someone who is vaccinated to spread the virus within their community. The best thing to do is to get tested if you have virus symptoms. This will allow you to find out if it’s COVID, or perhaps something else, before you spread it to others.

Q: Is it hard to make a testing appointment?

A: Not at all. We are open 7 days a week and accept walk-ins for COVID testing. You may also schedule online here. Testing is quick and easy. After checking in, you’ll simply walk up or drive thru our testing center. Patients are typically in and out within 15 minutes.

Innovative Vaccinates Eligible Employees at Area Businesses

A successful return to the workplace means COVID precautions, or better yet, vaccines. Many local businesses have worked with Innovative Express Care during the pandemic to offer COVID-19 testing for employees and to consult on best practices to stop virus spread. Those same businesses are now lining up for the next phase to ensure a healthy workplace, vaccines. 

Innovative Express Care has worked with more than 100 businesses over the last six months. Companies both large and small have recognized that COVID-19 prevention strategies, such as regular testing of employees, can be the key to staying open. Innovative Express Care has a dedicated mobile team for occupational health at area businesses. That team is now beginning to administer vaccines to businesses who have eligible employees. 

Innovative Express Care recently vaccinated more than 100 employees at a factory in Schiller Park.

For more information, or to arrange workplace COVID-19 testing or a vaccine clinic at your business, please complete our online form

 

Innovative Express Care to Vaccinate CPS Teachers, Staff

Innovative Express Care has been awarded a contract from the Chicago Board of Education to vaccinate thousands of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers and essential staff over the next few weeks. Dedicated CPS COVID Vaccination Centers will be established at four city high school locations, aimed to vaccinate CPS employees quickly as part of the ongoing effort for teachers and students to return to school buildings.

“We are excited to partner with the Board of Education and CPS to make COVID vaccines available to all CPS staff as quickly as possible,” said Rahul Khare, MD, CEO and founder of Innovative Care. “We have vaccinated more than 8,000 patients already, including many area teachers. Innovative Care is committed to helping our community recover from COVID, and vaccines are a large part of that effort.”

CPS Scheduling

CPS teachers and staff will be vaccinated in phases. Appointments are required, and staff must wait until their eligibility window to schedule their visit. Only CPS staff will be seen at the clinics. Scheduling will be done online via Innovative Express Care’s HIPAA compliant scheduling portal. Patients will also be able to pre-register online before they arrive, making their visit quick and easy. Appointments typically take just 20 minutes from arrival to completion. Vaccines are free of charge. Insurance will be billed for administering the vaccine, but patients will not pay any out-of-pocket costs.

About Innovative Care

Innovative Express Care is the urgent care practice under the medical group Innovative Care. The clinic opened in 2015, and has been instrumental in fighting COVID since the virus hit Chicago in March 2020. The clinic has administered more than 300,000 COVID tests to date, and 8,000 COVID vaccines to date. Innovative Express Care currently operates four dedicated COVID clinics, which will increase to eight with the addition of the CPS Vaccination Centers.

Residents of Chicago who do not work at CPS may schedule COVID vaccine appointments online at innovativecovid.com or via the ZocDoc vaccine finder.

Dr. Khare on WGN: COVID Vaccine Availability

We know the vaccine waiting game can be frustrating. Clinics wait for doses, as patients wait for appointments. Dr. Khare explained how we are doing everything we can to increase vaccine availability for people in group 1b on WGN TV.

The short answer? Persistence is key. We can only book appointments a few days out, as we must first guarantee we’ll have doses available for patients. Those in group 1b, which include older adults age 65+ and essential front line workers (police, fire, teachers, etc.) should check our website and others often to look for appointment availability which can change daily.

Innovative Wellness and Innovative Express Care Make Chicago’s “Best Of” List

We did it!

Thanks to your nominations, Innovative Wellness and Innovative Express Care have made the Chicago Reader’s “Best Of” list in two categories: Best Clinic to get your Medical Card and Best Local CBD Source.

Vote online today!

Our team is proud to help patients who qualify for medical cannabis and guide them as they pursue improved health and symptom relief. Now that we made the list of finalists, we need your help one last time to bring this honor home. Please visit the Chicago Reader online to cast your vote for Innovative Express Care and Innovative Wellness in these two categories. 

Best Clinic to get your Medical Card
Best Local CBD Source

Innovative Wellness has developed cannabis regimen protocols for numerous conditions, including Crohn’s Disease, IBS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, PTSD, Cancer, Migraines and more. Our team will help you determine what strains are best suited for your unique symptoms and help you incorporate cannabis into your treatment plan. 

If you or someone you know is interested in exploring medical cannabis, contact us today

Spread the word and cast your vote today. Thanks for your support.

Do you have COVID-19 antibodies? A new, highly sensitive test will provide the answer

Beckman Coulter Antibody Test

Innovative Express Care is excited to offer a new antibody test that offers IgG and IgM antibodies at our 1111 W. Diversey Parkway COVID testing site. This antibody test is more accurate than other tests on the market, as it looks at both IgG and IgM, and has a high specificity and sensitivity rate. We were the first in Chicago to begin antibody testing in the spring of 2020, and we are proud to continue as a local leader in antibody testing.

The Beckman Coulter IgM and IgG antibody test is extremely accurate, as it uses the spike protein which is unique to the COVID-19 virus. This is the antibody test I trust for my family, friends and patients. Here’s why:

Remarkable specificity and sensitivity 

The test demonstrates 99.9% specificity and 98.3% sensitivity. This is the best out there currently. Here’s a video showing how it works: https://www.beckmancoulter.com/solutions/sars-cov-2-antibody-testing

Strength of immune response

The two approved vaccines on the market use the spike protein to create antibodies. We feel that the Beckman Coulter test will show us the strength of immune response to the vaccines. It will also shows antibodies to the current mutations of COVID-19.

Identification of false positives

We use the Beckman Coulter test to look for both IgM antibodies (which show up as early as 2-3 days after infection occurs) and IgG antibodies (which show up 5-7 days after initial infection). The antibody test can be used to determine if a COVID-19 rapid or PCR test indicated a false positive result, or if the patient is indeed fighting COVID-19.

Vaccine Response

We have been getting patients who have received the vaccine and want to see their immune response to this novel vaccine. We are delighted to see that all patients receiving the vaccine have a good immune response. We hope to continue to see this as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Who can get the new antibody test? 

The new antibody test at Innovative Express Care is available to anyone who feels they may have had COVID-19, whether they previously tested positive for the virus or not. It can also be used to confirm the presence of antibodies after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Do you think you may have gotten COVID-19? Make an appointment today. Tests are performed using a simple blood draw (more accurate than a finger prick) and results are available within 1-2 days.

Schedule an appointment today

The new Beckman Coulter antibody test is only available at our 1111 W. Diversey testing clinic. If you would like this test specifically, please make an appointment at that location. 

Our clinic in Downers Grove offers antibody testing, but NOT the Beckman Coulter test. The test they use is the Assure FaStep IgG/IgM, which measures IgG and IgM antibodies through a finger prick. The Assure FaStep test has a 98.8% sensitivity and 98.7% specificity for IgG, and 93.7% sensitivity and 99.1% specificity for IgM.