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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. 

Planning to fly? Be sure to schedule a COVID Test

Many airlines and travel destinations now require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you can obtain your boarding pass. If you are traveling for the holidays, planning a winter getaway, or boarding for business, read this first. 

Timing is Everything

Be sure to check state and local travel restrictions before you schedule a trip. Many destinations, and some airlines, require a COVID test to be performed no more than 72 hours before you travel. It’s important to understand what is and what is not accepted for travel so you don’t run into any issues at the airport. Rapid antigen tests provide the quickest results, but they are often NOT accepted as proof. PCR tests are the gold-standard when it comes to COVID-19 testing. These tests are accepted for travel, but getting your results within a 72 hour window is never guaranteed and may prove difficult when labs are struggling to keep up with high testing volume. 

Innovative Express Care offers PCR testing, but the turnaround time for us to get results from the lab ranges from 2-4 days, which means we cannot guarantee you’ll have proof within 72 hours. We are however affiliated with a clinic that has an on-site lab, allowing them to guarantee same-day PCR results. If you must get a PCR in 72 hours, COVID of Chicago will get you PCR results guaranteed and it is usually given to you in 2 hours! 

Pack your Documentation

Be sure to pack your COVID-19 test documentation and keep an electronic version or photo on your phone, too. You may need this for your origin or destination city. Innovative Express Care and COVID of Chicago are both able to provide patients with documentation and lab reports. 

Take Virus Precautions Seriously

COVID-19 is far from over, even with the vaccine approved. Be sure to heed virus warnings, which may include postponing unnecessary travel. If you do board a plane, remember to wear a mask at all times and exercise good hand hygiene. A face shield can also be worn for added protection when in a confined space with others. The CDC also advises travelers to bring extra supplies (masks, sanitizer) and emphasizes that staying home is the safest choice. 

It’s been a long nine months, but we are in the home stretch. Vaccine distribution will begin soon and with continued precautions, we will be able to return to some sense of normalcy in the coming months. Stay strong and stay well.

Saliva COVID-19 Tests are Here

Innovative Express Care is now offering saliva-based COVID-19 tests at our city and suburban virus testing centers. Our clinic has administered more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests since the pandemic started and is a leader in COVID-19 testing. We are proud to be among the first clinics offering saliva tests in Chicago at a large scale.

It is easy to provide a saliva sample for COVID-19 testingThe availability of these tests will allow us to screen over 2,000 patients each day. Every case that is identified provides an opportunity to stop further spread of this virus. The saliva test is most appropriate for asymptomatic patients and will be used as a simple screening test. The rapid COVID-19 test and nasal PCR test will continue to be used for symptomatic patients. 

Proactive screening would be a game-changer

I personally believe that regular testing is needed in order to identify and remove positive carriers from businesses and schools before outbreaks happen, thus avoiding shutdowns. If Chicagoans were screened weekly for COVID-19, we could greatly reduce the number of new cases each day. A proactive approach to testing would be a game-changer.

About the SalivaDirect Test

The SalivaDirect test was created by the Yale School of Public Health, and received emergency use authorization from the FDA. It is non-invasive, offers a quick and easy way to test for the virus, and yields faster results for patients. Studies to date have shown that the saliva test provides a comparable level of accuracy to the nasal swab test. 

Three testing sites now open 

We opened a third testing site today, November 2, which is dedicated to COVID-19 screening (patients with no symptoms and no known virus exposure). The clinic is located at 2662 N. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park. We also have a COVID-19 testing site at 1111 W. Diversey Parkway in Chicago, and a suburban location at 4115 Fairview in Downers Grove, both of which see both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. 

Workplace and school testing 

In addition to testing thousands of patients each day, we have helped hundreds of businesses and schools in the area fight COVID-19 by offering workplace testing. The simplicity of the saliva test will make it even easier for businesses to screen employees and maintain a safe workplace.  

For more information on COVID-19 testing at Innovative Express Care, visit us online

Have You Been to a COVID Carnival? It’s Time to Get Tested

COVID Carnival

One of my favorite radio personalities told me he’d been to a COVID carnival recently. You know, a gathering where for just a moment you forget there is a pandemic happening? People are mingling, talking in groups, and few people, if anyone, is wearing a mask. Sound familiar? 

We’ve all fallen victim to peer pressure, naivety about event safety, or FOMO (fear of missing out) at some point over the last seven months. After all, it’s been a long seven months. Avoiding gatherings was easier at the start of the pandemic, whereas in recent months, many people have let their guard down. 

As the holidays approach, I worry that there will be more “COVID carnivals” to dart (or gamble on). So what’s one to do? Here’s my advice. 

Stay Strong

We are social beings, so it can be difficult to miss events. That said, sometimes missing the birthday gathering is your best bet. The pandemic offers you an opportunity to say no without guilt. Remember that schedule that used to run you ragged? Now you can freely decline events citing safety (and responsibility) as the reason. The fact is, it can happen to you. Every party invite you accept, dinner you attend or unnecessary event you choose to stop by adds an element of risk. We are learning to live with COVID-19. It is not realistic to live entirely risk-free, but you can significantly reduce your chance of getting, or spreading, this illness by being selective about the risks you take. 

Get Tested

I believe it’s time for us to be proactive about testing. When the pandemic started, there was a lack of testing centers, supplies, etc. That is no longer the case. So why not implement regular testing? If we proactively test individuals, we can identify and isolate the virus, thus limiting the spread of COVID-19. Currently, we are far too reactive. Most people do not get tested unless they’ve had a known exposure or experience symptoms. In the coming weeks, Innovative Express Care will begin saliva virus testing. Swing by at your appointment time, spit in a cup, and you’re on your way. COVID-19 testing can be quick and easy. So why not do more of it? 

Keep Gatherings Small This Holiday Season

COVID-19 is not a gift you want to give this holiday season. If you are planning to get together with extended family, be sure to take precautions. I recommend the following: 

  1. Limit your activities beginning two weeks prior to the event
  2. Get tested before you go (and allow enough time, 3-4 days, to get the results)
  3. Keep gatherings small this season

Innovative Express Care offers COVID-19 testing seven days a week. It’s not only easy to get tested, it’s also the responsible thing to do. While many people may not experience serious symptoms with this virus, other people do, and you do not want to risk the health of your loved ones. We now have testing sites in the city and Western suburbs. With more than 1,000 appointment times a day, we do our best to accomodate the needs of the community. Be safe, Chicago.

Do I have the flu, COVID-19 or something else? 

Flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are similar. In fact, many viruses have symptoms that overlap those associated with COVID-19. This fall and winter, be prepared to ask yourself this question — do I have the flu, COVID-19 or something else? How will you know? Here are some helpful hints to help you navigate this flu season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Flu vs. COVID-19

Flu symptoms and COVID symptoms can be very similar. You’ll have to rule them both out to know what is causing your symptoms. We now test for flu in addition to COVID-19 when a symptomatic patient comes to our COVID-19 testing center. This is done to ensure we know what is causing your symptoms and to determine next steps. 

Fever is a hallmark symptom of COVID-19, and may be the only symptom present at the start of the illness. Fever is also common with flu, and may be accompanied by chills and body aches. Since COVID-19 can cause similar symptoms, it’s best to get both tests when you are symptomatic. The clinicians at our COVID-19 testing centers may also recommend additional testing, such as a strep test. 

Innovative Express Care now has two COVID-19 testing centers to serve you. Visit us in Chicago at 1111 W. Diversey Parkway, or in Downers Grove at 4115 Fairview Avenue. Appointments are required. Visit our website for more information and clinic hours. 

Our urgent care is here for you

While COVID-19 is all we hear about these days, our Lincoln Park urgent care is still here to tackle your non-COVID immediate care needs such as sprains and strains, lacerations or an unexplained rash. Flu vaccines are also available at our urgent care by appointment. Schedule your flu shot here

Patient safety is our top priority, so anyone who is experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 is sent to our COVID-19 testing center. Patients who need medical care for injuries or symptoms not associated with COVID-19 are seen at our clinic, or via a telemedicine consult. Refer to the chart below to determine which appointment is right for you.

COVID-19 Testing Now Open in Downers Grove

Big news! We opened a COVID-19 testing site in Downers Grove today.

Innovative Express Care performs nearly 1,000 COVID-19 tests daily at our city site. We are committed to helping the Chicagoland area screen for the virus and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Increasing testing is part of our commitment. 

I teamed up with Jeffrey Bohmer, MD, another local emergency medicine physician, to manage the site at 4115 Fairview Avenue in Downers Grove. We offer PCR swab testing, rapid COVID-19 testing and antibody testing currently, and we expect to add saliva testing in the coming weeks. More on that soon! 

Our Downers Grove clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm. We will extend those hours into the evening and to weekends soon. You do not need to be experiencing symptoms for testing and insurance is accepted. Uninsured patients can also be tested under the federal CARES Act. 

The colder months and upcoming holidays will result in more people commingling indoors. Proactively testing and screening for COVID-19, even when no symptoms are present, can help identify cases early and prevent virus spread. The upcoming flu season will also lead many people to need COVID-19 testing. Innovative Express Care will rule out COVID-19, while also testing symptomatic patients for flu and strep when necessary.  

Appointments are required for testing. For more information on COVID-19 testing, visit Innovative Express Care online

Innovative Express Care Helps Chicago Businesses Get Back to Work

Occupational Health COVID-19

It’s official. Illinois has flattened the curve and we are heading into phase III. This is exciting news for the restaurants, retail stores and other businesses who have been sidelined due to the pandemic. How we take this next step is critical. Innovative Express Care can help. Our team offers cost-effective virus testing, antibody testing and counsel on best practices for businesses to help them ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers. We take your employee’s insurance and also treat uninsured and undocumented patients for free. We’ll even come to you!

Businesses must understand that operating in the COVID-19 environment requires preventive measures and careful planning. This virus isn’t going anywhere, so we need to establish firm protocols and make them commonplace to prevent future outbreaks. COVID-19 swab testing, for the active virus, before or on the first day back at work will help you get off to a good start. Monitoring the health of your workforce is also important, as is having a plan in place for what you’ll do if someone does become ill. 

Innovative Express Care accepts insurance for COVID-19 testing, making this service a sure win for employers. A reasonable fee applies for ongoing medical counsel, additional testing or medical care for ill employees. We are here to help businesses both large and small, and across all industries, protect their employees and customers.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

Initial Baseline Testing

  • It’s extremely important to give your employees confidence that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe. Your employees understand that there’s a risk to returning to work. But have you done everything you can to protect them? The first thing to do is COVID-19 swab testing for all employees. The last thing you want is to re-open and then immediately have an outbreak due to one person coming back to work with the virus. It closed down the Ford plant recently. While testing every employee prior to coming back to work takes a bit of time and money, it shows your employees that you are serious about their health, and it helps to ensure a smooth re-opening.

Temperature Screening Before and After Work

  • Until there are no cases in Illinois, we must take measures to protect employees and prevent outbreaks. Daily temperature checks combined with asking employees if they have felt feverish, have experienced body aches, or have a cough is important to make sure your employees do not spread this virus.

Strict Isolation for Symptomatic Employees

  • You must have a strict policy in place when employees present with a fever. Prepare protocols on how you will get employees tested and evaluated by a physician quickly, as well as procedures for coming back to work. We offer same-day COVID-19 testing in our parking lot (while the patient remains in their car). We can then follow up with them via a virtual telemedicine visit to assess their symptoms and determine if they are cleared to get back to work. We will provide a note if they are approved to return to work.

Random Testing

  • For 2 weeks, there should be random testing on your high risk employees (those working in close contact with others). COVID-19 tests are generally covered by insurance, and Innovative Express Care can help you establish these protocols.

Although we will come to you, ongoing care can be done quickly and cost-effectively with telemedicine. We have used telemedicine to provide convenient care since I opened the clinic five years ago. When COVID-19 struck, we increased our telemedicine capacity by 1,000 percent and used virtual appointments to evaluate patients before they came on-site for testing. Telemedicine access is now available to employers who want to ensure their employees have quick access to care if someone becomes ill.

For more information about occupational health services at Innovative Express Care, please visit us online and complete our online form

Now What? Dr. Khare Weighs in on Phase III

Phase III COVID-19 Illinois

Great job, Chicago. You stayed home to the extent possible and together, we have flattened the curve. As Illinois comes down from its COVID-19 peak, there are many things to keep in mind. We have patients ask us daily — what’s next? Can we safely see neighbors or loved ones again? The answer is a bit complex, and you’ll need to make personal choices on what is best for you and your family as we move forward. 

Safer at Home

While the stay-at-home order will soon lift, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 is not gone. We have successfully lowered the number of cases in our area, but you are still in fact safer at home. Does this mean you can’t go anywhere or see anyone? No, but your decisions should be based on your individual risk and the health of those around you. 

The elderly, as well as people living with chronic health conditions, have a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19. Conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease and autoimmune diseases are among these illnesses. Both young and old people fall into this group for whom the virus can be very serious, even deadly. 

Those who are in the high risk group should consider continuing to limit their social activities and time in public. This means avoiding large groups, and relying on others to run errands if possible. Those who are a low risk need to support these individuals and respect that their circumstances are not the same. 

Workplace Safety

As I mentioned, COVID-19 is not gone. That’s why it is important that employers be vigilant about establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. COVID-19 testing when work resumes will play an important role. Employee temperature checks and personal protective equipment (masks, gloves) will be critical in many settings. Innovative Express Care offers occupational health services to help businesses get back to work safely. We travel to the business for testing, offer counsel on best practices and are here to provide care in the event someone does get ill. 

Accept a New Normal

The coming months will not be what anyone wanted. Summer in Chicago will look different and we will miss the events that make our city special. Still, we must realize that without change we are at risk of going back in time in this pandemic. We must do our part to accept the changes so we can further reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community. 

Stay Home When You Are Sick

Now more than ever, it’s important to stay home when you are feeling sick. Americans have been trained to work through illness and in the past, a stuffy nose, headache, even a mild fever may not stop us. This needs to change. In order to prevent COVID-19 from spiking again in our community, we need to listen to our body, stay home and stay isolated when we are ill. If you do get sick, please get tested. When we identify COVID-19, we can properly isolate and take precautions to prevent it from spreading. Innovative Express Care offers COVID-19 virus swab testing daily in our outdoor medical tent. Walk-ins are accepted, or you may make an appointment online. We take insurance and accept uninsured patients for COVID-19 testing and care under the CARES Act. 

We also offer the COVID-19 antibody test, which may determine if you’ve previously had the virus. An appointment is required for the antibody test, as it requires a blood draw in our clinic. 

Again, great job Chicago. Please continue to be mindful of COVID-19 as we resume activities so we can protect those at risk and avoid a future spike in cases.

 

Free COVID-19 Virus and Antibody Testing for Uninsured Patients

Free COVID-19 Virus and Antibody Testing

I am excited to announce that we are now offering free COVID-19 virus and antibody tests to uninsured patients. This is possible under the federal CARES Act. I believe that everyone should have access to COVID-19 testing and care. This is a relentless virus, especially for those who have underlying medical conditions. It is affecting Black and Hispanic communities at an alarming rate and is spreading at a higher rate in low income communities. Symptoms cannot be ignored. 

Since the pandemic started, we have drastically increased our hours to accommodate as many patients as possible. We have performed more than 20,000 COVID-19 virus and antibody tests to date, and see upward of 500 patients every day. Our team will not stop until this virus is under control. 

How to get tested

An appointment is not required for COVID-19 virus swab testing. Patients who wish to have the swab test can simply check-in at the outdoor medical testing tent. Social distancing is in place and everyone is given a mask to limit possible exposure to the virus. 

Antibody testing does require an appointment, as a blood draw is needed and patients are seen in the clinic for this test. COVID-19 antibody test appointments can be scheduled online at www.innovativecorona.com

The federal CARES Act only applies to those who are uninsured. This means that if you have insurance, and we accept your plan, you have to use your insurance. If you are insured, but we do not accept your plan, you can choose to pay a self-pay fee of $250 for the evaluation and test or find a clinic that takes your insurance. 

COVID-19 antibody tests (blood draw) typically begin with a telemedicine consultation. The virtual visit minimizes the amount of time patients are on-site at the clinic. Patients come in for COVID-19 testing on the same day or the next day after their virtual visit. 

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, visit us online at www.innovativecorona.com

Stay well Chicago.