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COVID Policies are Key in Spring Sports

Spring sports are back and parents and kids alike are thrilled. Fresh air, exercise, and a sense of “normal” is a welcome change after a year of restrictions. We are thrilled, too, but we also want to make sure the rules of the game are clear, as we are not out of the woods when it comes to COVID. 

Don’t Brush Off Precautions

While it’s true that the risk of virus spread is less outdoors, it still exists. Rather than throw caution (and face masks) to the wind, keep some protocols in place to protect your players. Spacing on the bench, masks in the dugout, sanitizing stations and more can go a long way to keeping your team from being sidelined. 

Take Quarantine Time Outs Seriously

Parents are always asking…my kid can’t go to school because of a possible exposure. Can they still go to practice? The answer is no. If you are quarantined from school, you are quarantined from sports, too. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Protect your teammates and their families so we can keep virus spread to a minimum. Sports are back, so let’s keep them running by practicing safely. 

Get Your Stats Straight

Until you have a COVID positive case or exposure in your house, you may not pay much attention to the timelines. So here’s a breakdown:

If you test positive to COVID, you must quarantine for 10 days (from your positive test). 

If you were exposed to COVID, you must quarantine for 14 days. Eager to get back to the game sooner? If you have no symptoms, you can get a PCR test 5-7 days after your most recent exposure to the virus. For example, if Johnny was exposed to COVID at the game on Saturday, he can get a PCR test as of Thursday. If the PCR test is negative, Johnny can return to the game after 10 days of quarantine (versus 14 days). 

If one child was exposed, do my other kids have to stay home too? No. Only the person(s) directly exposed need to quarantine. Other family members are considered a secondary exposure and do not have to quarantine (unless the person originally exposed ends up testing positive. Then a quarantine would be in place for siblings, too.)

Finalize Your Playbook

Encourage your organization to have solid COVID policies in place. Let parents know what they can expect of you, the organization, and what you expect of them. Have open communication about cases and work to protect one another. 

Testing 7 days/week at Innovative

Our Lincoln Park clinic is open seven days a week for COVID testing. Make an appointment online or walk-up for your COVID test. We also offer COVID testing in Downers Grove.

COVID-19 Cases on the Rise in Lincoln Park

We have seen an alarming rise in positive COVID-19 cases in the last month. On March 1, just 2.3% of the rapid COVID-19 tests administered at Innovative Express Care were positive for COVID-19. On March 31, it was 9.4%, and we are holding pretty steady thus far in April (average 8.6% positive). This trajectory mirrors what city officials are saying, noting Lincoln Park is one of the neighborhoods seeing a sharp increase in virus activity.

I am very concerned by these numbers. After a full year of COVID-19 restrictions, the city has begun to reemerge, and nobody wants to see a resurgence of virus activity. Still, as we venture out to enjoy the weather, gather with friends, or travel for spring break, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is still active in our communities. 

Young Adult Cases on the Rise

The majority of positive cases are in younger adults. There are many reasons for this, ranging from lifestyle or career, to the inability to be vaccinated yet. My hope is that unvaccinated people who remain at risk of COVID-19 understand the severity of this virus. It’s critical that we get this under control, so until vaccination efforts can be fully rolled out, we must remain vigilant. 

Don’t let your guard down

Please continue to wear masks and social distance. If you have not been vaccinated and are traveling from an orange state, please get tested upon return to Chicago. Pay attention to symptoms, always assess your risk, and take responsibility for your actions so we can keep one another safe.

We all want the old days back. Parties, hugs, concerts and travel will all return. For now however we must continue to protect our health and the health of those around us. 

Stay well.

Getting Vaccines to Those who Need Them Most

We are often asked, how do you distribute your vaccines? Is it all just a race to snag an appointment online faster than others? Unfortunately, there is a race for a subset of our appointments online, however that is far from the only way we do it. Let me explain.

Our first priority is to vaccinate the most vulnerable populations of people. As a center who has conducted upward of 300,000 COVID-19 tests to date, we have been in the trenches for a full year now. We’ve seen the impact COVID has had on our communities, particularly those who are older or living with comorbidities. We also know COVID-19 has hit Black and Latinx communities at disproportionate numbers compared to predominantly white communities. Distributing vaccines to these communities, and senior citizens, is a key part of our distribution strategy.

Weekly Allocation COVID Vaccines

Community Equity & Seniors

In the last month, we’ve established relationships with three community groups dedicated to providing vaccine access to seniors and those in medically underserved communities. Each week, when doses come from the city, we earmark around 10 percent of those vaccines for this effort. We work with My Block, My City, My Hood to ensure vaccine access for majority-Black and Latinx communities hardest hit by COVID-19. Local Vaccine Angels also contribute, dedicating countless hours of time each day to secure vaccine appointments for seniors.

Online booking systems can be challenging for older adults or those who do not have internet access. We recognize this and rely on help from these groups who play an important role in vaccine equity for our community. The local teen who leads a Chicago Vaccine Angel group was recently featured on Good Morning America for his work.

Innovative Primary Care also plays a role in getting vaccines to eligible patients. We communicate with patients 65 and older to encourage them to schedule vaccine appointments, and can accommodate them during well visits at our clinic or at our vaccine center.

Chicago Public School Staff and Teachers

Classrooms across the country have been disrupted by COVID. Just this week, we hit the one-year mark since Chicago Public Schools had to pivot to remote learning due to the virus. Getting our teachers and school staff vaccinated to children can return to the classroom is critical. Innovative Express Care operates four vaccination sites for Chicago Public Schools. Each week when we get our vaccine allotment, 1,500 doses are earmarked for this school vaccination effort. Over the last few weeks, this has been 30 percent of our total vaccine allotment.

ZocDoc

Innovative Express Care was one of the first sites to sign on with ZocDoc for vaccine scheduling. This effort was spearheaded by the City of Chicago as a way to offer a one-stop shop for locating vaccine appointments in the city. We open at least 100 appointments on ZocDoc weekly.

Strike Teams

While the vast majority of our vaccines are administered at our clinics, we also have a strike team that heads out into the community to test or vaccinate eligible individuals. This team has traveled to factories, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, area schools and more.

Innovative COVID

Each week, we release as many appointments as possible for individuals to book vaccine appointments directly on our website. Since the amount of doses we get weekly from the City of Chicago varies, this amount does as well. When a shipment of vaccines arrives, we first have to remove the doses allocated for Chicago Public Schools. Next, we have to set aside the quantity needed for second doses. Then, we are able to begin allocating to the various efforts listed above. The remainder is put on our website for open booking.

Traveling from an Orange State? Skip the Quarantine with an At-Home PCR Test

As people resume travel for work and pleasure, many will learn that COVID testing requirements vary from state to state. Depending on where you go, you may even find yourself under quarantine upon return home to Chicago. 

The city of Chicago currently requires anyone traveling from an orange state to a self-quarantine for 10 days, or obtain a negative COVID test up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Chicago. This means that during your vacation, you’ll need to find a COVID testing site to prove you are negative in order to resume your day-to-day life once back in Chicago. Nobody wants to waste time on vacation at a COVID testing site.

Take a Test Kit with you on Vacation

You can avoid the hassle of finding a testing site by purchasing a $99 take home kit that you can mail to the lab from wherever you are in the US.

I recently took my family on a ski trip to Utah and went through this very experience. While I am fully vaccinated, my family had a choice to make. We could test within 72 hours of our return trip home, or agree to quarantine upon arrival. My kids have spent very little time inside a school building this year, so keeping them home longer was not ideal. Instead, we used the at-home saliva test kit and mailed in our saliva sample while still in Utah so we could have our results in time to avoid a quarantine back home. 

If you are traveling in the near future, keep an eye on restrictions. Some destinations require proof of a negative test prior to travel. Lab times can vary and be unpredictable, so this may leave you looking for a fast option to guarantee your travel plans are not put on hold. Innovative Express Care has two options to accommodate travelers. 

  1. At home test kit
  2. 30-minute PCR results at our affiliate clinic, COVID of Chicago

For more information about 30-minute PCR testing for travel, visit our website

To purchase an at-home testing kit, click here

City of Chicago emergency travel order information can be found here

Will Chicago See Another Surge in COVID Cases?

Illinois and Chicago are reporting record lows in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the pandemic began one year ago. Does this good news mean we are approaching the end of the pandemic? The obvious answer is we hope so, however Innovative Express Care is seeing an upward trend of cases in our own patient data.

In just two weeks, our clinic in Lincoln Park went from a 2.6% positivity rate to a 6% positivity rate. This means there are more than twice as many positive cases this week as there were two weeks ago. While still low by comparison to the peak points during the pandemic, this upward trend is making us take notice. Here’s a look at the data:

Will the uptick continue?

There is a lot to learn from data. If you look at the trajectory of COVID since March of 2020 until now, you’ll see there are peaks and valleys. A peak during the March/April 2021 timeframe was predicted. Many experts say the next two months are a critical time period that will determine if the United States experiences another widespread surge in cases. Others comment on how vaccination rates must continue improving in order to prevent variants from fueling COVID-19. 

I agree. We must hold steady, continue wearing masks and speed up vaccination efforts in order to maintain control of the virus spread. 

When can I get vaccinated? 

Innovative Express Care is currently vaccinating individuals in the 1a, 1b and 1b+ (under 65 but with qualifying medical conditions). We have administered over 28,000 vaccines in the last eight weeks. We will ramp up our efforts as soon as we can get our hands on more vaccine doses. We have the staff and space to help and we are eager to make a greater impact. 

When will things return to normal?

Truthfully, we won’t see the “normal” we once had for quite some time. COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. Expect to see mask requirements for many months. Many employers will continue to embrace work from home situations or hoteling in the office to limit the number of employees in one space at a time (and save on real estate). COVID-19 testing will continue and vaccines may become something we have to get annually like the flu shot. That said, things will improve. They already have to a large degree. We simply need to stay the course for a bit longer and adapt to the changes COVID has brought. As more Americans get vaccinated, we will see a sharp decline in cases. 

What if I’m not vaccinated and have symptoms or was exposed?

Please get tested if you feel ill. Also, get tested if you have been exposed. It is still important to quarantine yourself if you have COVID-19. 

 

Innovative Express Care Helps Seniors Get Vaccinated

Many people have compared searching for a COVID vaccine appointment to the Hunger Games, or scoring front row concert tickets. Unfortunately, this does feel true. A global pandemic that impacts everyone creates more phone inquiries than call centers can handle. What happens? Scheduling moves online, which makes securing an appointment difficult for senior citizens and patients who do not have access to technology. Countless community groups and individuals have stepped up to help seniors get vaccinated. Innovative Express Care is proud to partner with two of the groups making a huge impact in Chicago. 

Chicago Vaccine Hunters

This week, we released over 100 appointments to the individuals leading the Chicago Vaccine Hunters Facebook group. This volunteer run group pairs Vaccine Angels with eligible individuals who are struggling to secure an appointment, mostly

 senior citizens. They also serve as a forum for individuals to ask questions, share appointment information and other tips. Innovative will allocate doses to them weekly so we can vaccinate Chicago’s most vulnerable populations. 

My Block, My Hood, My City

Innovative Express Care is also teaming up with My Block, My Hood, My City to reach Chicago seniors in underserved communities. An additional 100+ appointments per week will be allocated to the group, allowing their volunteers to secure appoin

tments for older individuals in areas most impacted by COVID-19. Innovative Express Care was the first clinic to sign on to help My Block, My Hoo

d, My City launch their initiative.

Scheduling a Vaccine

To date, we have administered over 11,000 COVID vaccines. We have the capacity to do many more and will increase our appointment slots as soon as we have the doses needed to do so. If you are eligible for a vaccine and want to make an appointment, keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for appointment availability. 

We sincerely hope to help more Chicagoans get vaccinated very soon. We have been here since the start of the pandemic for testing, and we will be here until it is over for vaccinations.

Third COVID Vaccine Approved: Does it Matter Which One You Get?

Johnson & Johnson has received emergency use authorization (EUA approval) from the FDA for their COVID vaccine. This is exciting news, as it means a third COVID vaccine will soon be on the market and in the hands of providers offering appointments. This has many people asking…does it matter which vaccine I get? The short answer is no. Here’s why…

All three vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies 

While the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all a bit different, they have one critical thing in common. All three COVID vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies that will fight the virus. I advise patients to get a vaccine. Any vaccine. This is also the advice being offered by the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Each vaccine has been studied and has been deemed to be safe and effective in lowering the risk of contracting COVID-19. There is no reason to wait for a certain vaccine. 

What is the main difference between the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose, whereas Moderna and Pfizer require two-doses. The second dose of Moderna is administered 28 days (or up to 42 days) after the first vaccine. With Pfizer, the vaccines are administered at least 21 days apart. 

Which vaccine will you have at Innovative Express Care?

Thus far, Innovative Express Care has administered more than 9,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and around 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. We request vaccines from the City of Chicago and Dupage County (for our Downers Grove clinic) weekly, and we will administer whatever vaccine we are able to obtain. We have refrigerator and freezer storage available to safely store any of the vaccines. 

I recently spoke with ABC 7 about Johnson & Johnson coming to market. You can watch that clip here

To book a COVID19 test or vaccine appointment, visit us online.

COVID Vaccine Delay – What is going on?

Each week, we place an order for COVID vaccines. We then eagerly wait for the Chicago Department of Public Health to review the request. Sometimes we get the quantity we have requested, while other weeks we get a reduced amount, and some weeks we get nothing at all. This week, we were told to expect 5,000 doses on Tuesday, February 16. Upon receiving that news, we earmarked nearly 2,000 of those doses for individuals who were scheduled to get their second vaccine beginning today (Friday, February 19). Unfortunately, when Tuesday arrived, no vaccines were delivered. 

Waiting on Mother Nature

We were informed that the inclement weather in the south caused the issue and they would be sent as soon as possible. We waited. Wednesday and Thursday both came and went. Soon, we were at just 60 doses remaining. On Thursday evening, we were told that the earliest possible date we’d see vaccines would be Monday, February 22. It was at this point that we had to inform our patients who were scheduled today, Friday, February 19 and through the weekend, that we’d have to postpone their vaccine. This is never something we want to do. 

This morning, we received news that a shipment may in fact arrive before the weekend. This made us cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, as of 1:30pm, there has been no delivery. The moment doses arrive, we will execute a plan to see patients as quickly as possible. Stay tuned for further updates via email. 

What if I don’t get my second dose at exactly 28 days? 

The second dose of the Moderna vaccine is to be administered between 28 and 42 days after the first dose is given. Every patient will be accommodated within this window. There will be no issues in terms of the effectiveness of the vaccine, as second doses will be given in time. 

Why can’t I reach someone on the phone? 

Innovative Express Care is a small business. Pre-pandemic, we had 100 employees across our six medical practices. We now employee 300, most of whom are medical assistants, scribes and lab technicians working tirelessly to administer COVID tests and vaccines. We see over 2,000 patients a day for COVID testing, and hundreds more for vaccine appointments. Our call volume is extremely high. While we do our absolute best to answer, we do not have a call center like large hospitals and health groups. For this reason, the best way to contact us is via email. 

We use online booking and online registration for your convenience and to ensure you don’t have to wait to speak with someone. We are committed to seeing as many patients as possible per day to end this pandemic. That commitment to patient care stretches our administrative team. Our system is not perfect, but we do our best. 

Again, thank you for your patience and understanding this week. We hope this explanation helps you understand the situation. We are committed to our community and will continue to work hard for our patients.

 

First Healthcare Workers Vaccinated at Innovative Care

After 10 challenging months fighting COVID-19, our front line-healthcare workers were able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine today. This day has been a long time coming and was emotional for our team who has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. 

Innovative Express Care began testing for COVID-19 in March of 2020. We started with a small medical tent in our urgent care parking lot, and grew to three dedicated COVID-19 testing clinics that see more than 2,500 patients every day. Our team has administered more than 275,000 COVID-19 tests during the pandemic to date. 

I am extremely proud of our team. They put uncertainty and fear aside in the early days to serve their community and while the world stayed home, they worked hard to hire more staff, test patients and fight COVID-19 day after day. Today is their day. 

I hope to have our healthcare team vaccinated within the next two weeks. By February, I want to begin vaccinating other high-risk individuals such as those on the front lines, and older patients, according to the CDC guidelines. 

While the vaccine is being distributed, it’s important that we continue to take precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Please wear your mask, limit your social interactions and respect social distancing. We have come a long way and everyone is ready to return to a sense of normal. It will come, but please remain vigilant in the meantime. 

Stay tuned to our website and social media pages for updates on the vaccine rollout for patients. 

 

Holiday Gatherings Likely Fueling COVID-19 Case Increase

If you gathered with extended family or friends during the holiday season, please schedule a COVID-19 test. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen an upward trend in positive COVID-19 cases in patients tested at Innovative Care. This is concerning, as the week between Christmas and New Years is a common time for gatherings, and we are just now entering the window of time in which symptoms would present based on the incubation time of COVID-19.

The graph below depicts the two week time period from December 23, through January 6, and is based on the percent of positive rapid antigen test results. We are seeing a similar trend in PCR test results. 

For a full look at the percent of positive cases in the last few months, click here

While many people are cautiously optimistic that Illinois regions will begin to lift Tier 3 restrictions in the coming weeks, this data from our Lincoln Park clinic indicates we are not moving in that direction here on the Northside. I am concerned that we’ll see the upward trend in cases continue over the next 10 days to two weeks. 

Stop the spread of COVID-19

The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid gatherings, mask up and get tested. Isolation is hard, so many people let their guard down during the holiday season. We simply need to do our best. You can schedule a COVID-19 test online or purchase one of our at-home test kits

Stay well Chicago. We are making progress. We plan to offer the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months and will continue to see you through this pandemic.