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Conflicted about COVID? Dr. Khare addresses common questions as we Learn to Live with COVID-19

COVID-19 Life

Nobody expected 2020 to be consumed by a pandemic. When virus activity began in March, we assumed it would be temporary. We sheltered in place and figured we would resume normal activities within a few months. Here we are, six months later, and COVID-19 is still active in our community. In fact, the case numbers are not far from where they were when the virus peaked in Illinois. Still, the world is turning. More businesses are open again, some schools have resumed class and you even see kids playing in the park again. I asked Dr. Khare to explain how this could all be happening if the numbers are still high. Here’s what he had to say… 

Q: If COVID-19 cases are still high, why are we able to resume activities and remain in phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan? 

A: While the quantity of COVID-19 cases still may be over 1,000 per day in Illinois, the death rate is significantly lower than it was in the spring. Hospital stays are less common and fewer patients are on ventilators. The shutdown in the spring was partially driven by concern for our healthcare system. There was a point in time where few hospital beds were available and there was a shortage of ventilators for patients. Currently, that is not the case. As an emergency medicine physician, I’ve seen first hand how the protocols for treating COVID-19 patients have changed. Those changes have allowed us to curb the death rate. 

Q: When will COVID-19 end? 

A: Nobody has a clear answer for this. The best answer to this question is: when (or if) we get an effective vaccine, and when (or if) people get the vaccine and we gain herd immunity. If this does not occur, COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future. This means we have to learn to live with it. Adjusting our lives by wearing masks, limiting our social activities and even sheltering in place again if that becomes necessary, is all part of that. It’s about choices. It’s not practical to be 100 percent risk-free. At the same time, your life should not look the same as it did pre-COVID. Find a balance that works for your family. Take this virus seriously, while also allowing yourself to enjoy activities that are low to medium risk as safely as you can. 

Q: Is it safe to see friends and family? My friends are “over COVID” and I still feel the need to be cautious. 

A: Everyone is “over COVID-19” at this point. How you handle that is key. This is not the time to let your guard down or throw caution to the wind. It is a time to find balance. Your emotional health is important, just like your physical health is important. Generally speaking, I tell patients that they should feel comfortable doing things to improve their emotional health. This might mean visiting with your closest friends. It could also mean taking a yoga class. How you do those things is what matters. A large group of friends with no distancing and no masks in an indoor space is very different from a small group who remain outdoors. Likewise, an indoor yoga class in a small studio is very different from an outdoor class in a park. Look at the big picture. Are you taking precautions most of the time or are you being “safe” only half of the time? COVID-19 will be active for well over a year. We must learn to live with it and do our best to keep ourselves, and our families, safe. Striving for perfection will only create anxiety. Find balance. 

Q: Will flu season and winter worsen COVID-19?

A: Flu season will add to concern about COVID-19 because the symptoms are similar. This means there will be more possible cases to test and more quarantines at schools and businesses. Winter weather will also lead to more time spent indoors, which can in fact heighten the spread of the virus. The months ahead will be more difficult than where we are currently. It’s possible that we’ll have to roll back to phase 3 and shelter in place again. Enjoy outdoor activities while the weather is nice. When the weather gets cold, stick with a tight group rather than socializing with everyone you know and continue to take precautions such as social distancing. 

Q: What do I do if I experience possible COVID-19 symptoms? 

A: Testing is much faster and easier than it was a few months ago. If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, get tested to be sure you are not unknowingly infecting others. Innovative Express Care offers COVID-19 testing seven days a week at 1111 W. Diversey Parkway. We are also opening a testing clinic in Downers Grove in October. Appointments are required, so we can continue to get patients in and out quickly. Visit www.innovativecovid.com for more information.

Flu shots now available

flu shot 2020

 

Flu season is expected to begin in just a few short weeks. According to Dr. Khare, this year, it’s more important than ever to get your flu vaccine. Wondering why? Here are three solid reasons:

  1. The flu vaccine offers your best defense against the flu

    It’s that simple. Yes, we know you have a friend who swears that it makes him or her sick. This is false. The flu vaccine significantly lowers your chance of getting sidelined by the flu this season. It will also dramatically reduce your symptoms if you do in fact contract the flu.

  2. COVID-19 is still active in the community

    Flu symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms. If you catch the flu, it will not only sideline you physically, but it will also warrant that you get a COVID-19 test and keep you in quarantine while you wait for the results. Getting a flu vaccine is simple, affordable and will help you stay healthy so you can resume your normal activities. 

  3. Staying well will reduce your COVID-19 risk

    The best way to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 is to wear a mask in public, get the flu vaccine and continue to social distance.

Flu Vaccines now available at Innovative Express Care Urgent Care

Flu vaccines are available by appointment at our urgent care clinic located at 2400 N. Ashland Avenue (corner of Ashland and Fullerton). You must be well, with no symptoms of illness, to get the vaccine. Schedule your flu shot here. 

Patients who have an appointment for COVID-19 testing may request a flu shot during their visit to 1111 W. Diversey Parkway. The flu shot is only offered as an add-on to your COVID-19 swab. Patients must be well, with no signs of illness or fever to get their flu shot. 

When should I get my flu vaccine? 

Flu activity generally begins in October and runs into the spring months. The earlier you get vaccinated the better because it takes two weeks to build up your immunity. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six-months of age and older, unless you are allergic. It is especially important for high-risk individuals, which include infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly, as well as those with underlying health conditions. 

Book Your Flu Shot at 2400 N Ashland

Flu & COVID – Dr. Khare Weighs in on What to Expect this Fall

Everyone knows that the seasonal flu spans from October to approximately April annually. With COVID-19 still active and increasing in most Illinois regions, what should we know about how these viruses will come together? We’ve been hearing this question a lot lately, especially as parents remain hopeful that schools may return to in person learning. I asked Dr. Khare to weigh in and explain. 

Q: We’ve heard that the flu and COVID may create the perfect storm. Is this true? What should we expect? 

A: Both the flu and COVID-19 can be very serious for some individuals, particularly those who are older or have underlying health conditions. When both occur at the same time this fall and winter, I expect to see a few things happen. First, I anticipate more closures. Flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms can be similar. The current policies in place at schools and businesses require that symptomatic individuals be sent home and quarantined until a negative test can be produced. As such, I expect it to be difficult for some to remain open during the time period when both flu and COVID-19 are rampant.

Second, I expect to see more demand for testing. Businesses and schools want to get back to in person settings. Many colleges and universities are requiring weekly COVID-19 tests for staff and students. I expect this may become more common in the coming months. Innovative Express Care is continuing to ramp up our testing capacity to serve the community. We will also be opening two additional testing sites to provide quick and efficient testing for those who require testing. 

Q: I’m inconsistent with getting my flu shot because I’m not at high risk of getting the seasonal flu. Is it more important to get it this year because of COVID? 

A: I strongly recommend that everyone get their flu shot. This is a simple and easy way to prevent, or at least significantly reduce, the chance of getting influenza. With COVID-19 rising in our community, I do think it’s more important, as early flu symptoms are identical to symptoms of COVID-19. In addition, the flu can cause your body to become more susceptible to other illnesses such as bacterial pneumonia. Flu shots are starting to become available. We’ll have them at Innovative Express Care by late September and start giving them as advised by the CDC.

Q: What do I do if I experience symptoms that could be flu or COVID? Should I go to a COVID-19 testing site or call my doctor for a flu test? 

A: Consulting with your physician to discuss your symptoms is the best first step. Many offices, like Innovative Express Care, offer telemedicine consults so you can share your symptoms and seek medical advice regarding what steps to take. The Innovative Express Care COVID-19 testing site will offer flu and virus swab testing this fall and winter so both virus swabs can be done at the same time. 

For more information about the flu, COVID-19, or to schedule an appointment, visit us online.

Innovative Primary Care Move/Welcome Dr. Gazzi

Innovative Primary Care

Innovative Primary Care has Moved

We are excited to announce that Innovative Primary Care has moved to 2418 N. Ashland Avenue. The location is conveniently located next door to Innovative Express Care, allowing each practice to have its own designated space, while still fostering collaborative care between our urgent care and primary care providers. 

Welcome Dr. Gazzi

We are also pleased to announce that Dr. Renata Gazzi has joined Innovative Care as the Medical Director of Innovative Primary Care. Dr. Gazzi is a board-certified family medicine physician who graduated from the prestigious FAMECA Medical School in Brazil. She completed her residency here in Chicago and has worked at Advocate Illinois Masonic for the last several years. Dr. Gazzi believes trust is the most important factor in a doctor/patient relationship. She also focuses on education, to help patients improve their lifestyle in order to prevent illness. Dr. Gazzi is accepting new patients and sees children age 14 through adults. 

Dr. Gazzi and the Innovative Primary Care team is now seeing patients in our new office for annual physicals, women’s health and more. If you prefer to consult with one of our providers remotely, telemedicine is also an option. Schedule an appointment online today. 

Primary Care, Urgent Care and Behavioral Health Together in One Practice

Innovative Care offers healthcare for all of your acute needs within one collaborative medical group. Whether you need urgent care, ongoing preventative care, or behavioral health, we can help. Learn more on our website

NBC 5 – Dr. Khare weighs in on COVID-19 saliva tests and the surge in demand for virus testing

Dr. Khare spoke with NBC 5 yesterday regarding a new COVID-19 saliva test in development at UChicago Medicine. Khare also commented on the recent increase in demand for COVID-19 testing in Chicago. Innovative Express moved to a new, larger testing site this week to meet the demand, and can now see up to 500 patients a day at their 1111 W. Diversey Parkway COVID-19 testing site. View the full news segment here.

Innovative Express Care Featured in Crain’s Chicago Business

Innovative Express Care is honored to be featured in the Crain’s Chicago Business Healthcare Heroes issue for our work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team has worked tirelessly since the virus hit Chicago. We acted quickly set up an outdoor medical tent for virus testing in March, increased our staff by 40 percent and have tested well over 6,000 people for COVID-19 in the last three months. We are proud to serve our community seven days a week, and we will continue to go above and beyond to keep Chicago healthy.

Be sure to pick up the issue, or view it online here.

 

 

 

Planning a Vacation? Dr. Khare Offers Tips for Safe Summer Travel

 

Summer Travel COVID-19

The Spring quarantine made everyone a little stir crazy and itching for a change of scenery. But is travel safe or should you stick with backyard fun this summer? I asked Dr. Khare to weigh in on this common question. Below are his tips for safe summer travel. 

Choose the Great Outdoors

Outdoor activities carry less risk than time spent indoors, so take advantage of the summer weather and pack up the camper. If you’re not quite that outdoorsy, make it a day trip! Hiking, biking, fishing, or renting a kayak are all great outdoor activities that carry little risk.  

Stay Close to Home

Road trips within a few hours of home are your best bet this summer. They are safer than airline travel, and if you stay within a few hours, your pit stops along the way will be kept to a minimum. Virus activity in Illinois is far lower than other states currently, and is continuing to decline. This is a good time to stay put and explore the Land of Lincoln. 

Know the Numbers

If you are planning a trip out of state, be sure to monitor virus activity for that region before you go. Many states are experiencing an upswing of COVID-19 cases, making them new hot spots within our country. Some states require incoming travelers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, while others require travelers to self-quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival. Guidelines can change frequently, so be sure to do your homework. In addition, be sure to wear a mask, pack sanitizer, and abide by the state guidelines while visiting.

Be Flexible

We are all living in a state of flux right now, and this applies to businesses, too. When it comes to travel this summer, going with the flow is key. Consider your best, safest options when making plans, but be prepared that things could change. Choose accommodations that have policies in place to protect you if a change to your travel plans is necessary. Having a plan B is also a good idea. Your goal for summer fun should include safety, so try to go with the flow, even if it wasn’t what you originally had in mind. 

House or Hotel?

Many patients ask us, is a hotel safe? Should I book a house instead? Both accommodation types carry some risk. The most important thing is to socially distance yourself from others, and to wear a mask when that is not possible. This may be easier to accomplish at a private residence as opposed to a large hotel, but that doesn’t mean you have to rule out hotels altogether. Hotel chains have put strong measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Check the hotel policies to see what is being done, and to determine your comfort level. There are many factors to consider, including the amount of time you will spend at the property and what amenities you wish to enjoy when there.

Plan According to Your Risk Level

Above all, your summer plans should be based on your individual virus risk level. People who have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma and autoimmune disorders are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19. These individuals may want to consider postponing travel plans, or at the very least, should avoid areas that have a considerable amount of virus activity.

For more information about COVID-19 or testing at Innovative Express Care, visit us online.

Stay well Chicago!

Health Pitfalls of Sheltering at Home

Residual health effects of COVID-19 and tips for counteracting them

Staying home for a couple of months may have sounded like a mental health dream a while back, but too much time at home may have an adverse effect on your health. Our team flagged four of the most common health pitfalls associated with our stay-at-home orders that have nothing to do with catching the virus itself. Have you fallen into any of these traps? If so, read on for advice on how to keep your health a priority. 

Poor Nutrition

Most people are going to the store less often, ordering food to support their local restaurants and turning to comfort food to get them through tough days. Sound familiar? It’s harder to focus on well-rounded meals when you are working your way through the pantry rather than visiting your local grocer or farmer’s market on a regular basis. Still, don’t give up on good nutrition. Stock up on frozen fruit and vegetables so you can have a nutrient-packed smoothie for breakfast or lunch. It’s okay to enjoy comfort foods too, but make portion control a priority so you don’t binge eat while you binge watch your favorite shows. 

Lack of Exercise

Gyms are closed and the weather can make or break your motivation to get outdoors, but activity is key to mental and physical health. Use home equipment or make weights out of common household items like milk jugs for strength training. Have a two or three story home? Hit the stairs! There are also countless workout classes available online these days. Whether you go all out, or simply work a daily walk into your to do list, stay active.

Insomnia

The uncertainty in our world is causing more people to experience insomnia. Lack of sleep can lead to health issues, so it’s important to make rest a priority and find ways to improve sleep if you are struggling. Doctors recommend setting a bedtime and sticking with it (even if you could binge Netflix all night thanks to your lack of morning commute). Room darkening curtains, limiting caffeine and relaxation tactics such as meditation or essential oils may also help. 

Anxiety/Depression 

Anxiety and depression is on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients who have struggled with mental health issues previously are at risk of worsening symptoms, particularly if they veer from their normal routine and treatment plan. Many people who have never experienced anxiety before are suddenly struggling, too. Factors such as virus risk, job insecurity, financial concerns, and even homeschooling while also working from home can weigh heavily on one’s mind. Anxiety is common. It’s normal. Most people are experiencing some level of anxiety right now, so never feel ashamed. Talk with friends and family members. Journal about your feelings. Take time each day for yourself. If you are unable to find relief, seek a professional who can help. You are not alone and this is a difficult time for all.