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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. 

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.

COVID Testing Timeline for the Holidays

COVID-19 Holiday Travel

If you choose to gather with friends or family this holiday season, be sure to take every precaution possible to limit the risk of virus transmission. This includes virus testing. While getting tested doesn’t guarantee the gift of health, it can be an important safeguard. Dr. Khare addresses common questions, including when to get tested, below. 

Q: I am road tripping to see family on Christmas day. When should I get tested?

A:  It can take several days to get PCR test results back from the lab. To ensure you have results before you go, I recommend getting tested by December 18th. This grants a little extra time from what it usually takes to get results back. Labs are very busy right now, and the holiday season can amplify the volume, so allowing an additional day or two, just in case, is important. Another option is our at-home saliva PCR test kit. 

Q: I am flying to see family and need to be tested within 72 hours of my flight. Will I get my results in time? 

A: Possibly. It can take up to four days for us to get PCR results from the lab. While we usually have results between 2-3 days, this unfortunately cannot be guaranteed. If you need documentation for a flight, I highly recommend scheduling an appointment at COVID of Chicago, our affiliate clinic. They use a new PCR test that can be read in their onsite lab within two-hours. Unfortunately, the test is not covered by insurance. You may pay what you saved in airfare to guarantee results in time to fly, but you’ll be able to pack with ease knowing you already have the documentation needed in hand.  

Q: Are you open for testing on Christmas and New Years?

A: Innovative Express Care is open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but closed on Christmas day and New Years Day. Test results will continue to be communicated, even on the days we are closed. 

Q: If I only have a few guests, and we get tested before we see one another, is it safe to gather for the holiday? 

A: The safest thing to do is to stay home and spend the holiday only with your immediate family that lives in your household. If you choose to see others, keep your gathering small (less than 10 people). Getting tested prior to gathering is an excellent idea, just like the successful NBA bubble. Have everyone schedule a test at Innovative Express Care  4-5 days before the gathering to ensure enough time to get results. If a family member cannot find a test or is a last minute add-on, it is a good idea to get a rapid test at COVID of Chicago, who can get a rapid test back within about an hour, even on Christmas Eve.

Stay safe and healthy. Happy holidays.

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.

Same-Day PCR Results Available at New COVID-19 Testing Site

When COVID-19 symptoms strike, you want immediate answers, not several days of isolation and worry. A new COVID-19 testing clinic in Chicago offers same-day PCR results. No more waiting, no more wondering, just answers. 

PCR tests are the gold-standard for virus testingUnfortunately, it usually takes 2-5 days to get PCR results from the lab. COVID of Chicago invested in the latest testing technology and built an on-site lab to take away the wait. Patients who come to the drive-thru clinic get VIP service and same-day results

The PCR test used at COVID of Chicago is the same test that was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for its use by the NFL. The Accula test is superior to other tests that deliver same-day results, as it is a PCR test, not a rapid antigen test which is known to be less accurate. The Accula and Cue PCR tests used at COVID of Chicago are highly accurate. Both tests are accepted for travel, as well as return to work and school, whereas rapid antigen tests may not be accepted. 

A COVID-19 diagnosis is not like flu or other illnesses, as it requires isolation in order to protect family and friends. The sooner you know if COVID-19 is the cause of your symptoms, the sooner you can take precautions.

When you don’t have time to wait, schedule an appointment at COVID of Chicago. Unfortunately, insurance companies do not cover the cost of this test and patients must pay out of pocket for the same-day PCR test. The cost for the PCR test and provider consultation is $385. COVID of Chicago also offers rapid antigen testing for $250.

For more information, visit COVID of Chicago online.

If you wish to use your insurance for COVID-19 testing, visit our affiliate clinic, Innovative Express Care. Innovative Express Care offers PCR nasal tests, PCR saliva tests, rapid antigen testing and antibody testing.

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.

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.