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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.

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

Innovative Express Care Announces New COVID-19 Testing Center

New COVID-19 Testing Center

Beginning July 15, Innovative Express Care will move all COVID-19 testing to a new, larger testing center located at 1111 W. Diversey Parkway (former Mini dealership). This location offers ample parking, space for check-in and testing tents, and an indoor location for antibody testing. We expect to increase our capacity to 500 tests per day with this move. 

COVID-19 is here to stay for awhile, and increased testing is key to identifying cases early, so we can keep virus activity low. The start of summer, combined with Illinois subsequently entering phase 4, means people are in much closer contact with others than they were during the spring. The majority of people getting tested are asymptomatic individuals who want to be sure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus. This is often because they are headed back to work, planning to travel, or wish to visit elderly family members. Getting tested for COVID-19 before you do these things is recommended. If we can catch the virus early, we can prevent it from spreading to others. 

Who Should be Tested for COVID-19?

I believe everyone who has been out and in close contact with others should be tested. This is especially important if you are visiting with extended family and elderly relatives, if you are returning to work, or have been in large groups. There is no longer a shortage of tests or PPE equipment for medical workers, so asymptomatic individuals can, and should, be tested. 

Schedule a COVID-19 Virus or Antibody Test

Innovative Express Care offers COVID-19 testing 7 days/week. Our new, larger location allows us to see up to 500 patients each day. COVID-19 virus testing is done outdoors, either while you are in your car, or in our outdoor medical tent. We offer the virus swab test, as well as the COVID-19 rapid test

COVID-19 antibody testing is done indoors, as that test requires a blood draw. Appointments can be made online

Three Types of Testing Offered

Innovative Express Care offers three types of testing:

  1. COVID-19 virus swab test
    • Typically covered 100 percent by insurance*
    • Results in 3-5 days
  2. Rapid COVID-19 test 
    • Same-day results (within four hours)
    • Cost $150
    • Not covered by insurance
    • Swab test performed in addition to rapid test to ensure accuracy
  3. COVID-19 antibody test
    • Typically covered 100 percent by insurance*
    • Results in 1-2 daysv

The Rapid test we use is Sofia SARS-CoV-2 antigen FIA by Quidel. We believe this is the most accurate rapid test on the market, however, since rapid tests have a lower accuracy rate than the virus swab test, the Rapid COVID-19 Test is only available as an add-on to virus swab testing. The rapid test is not covered by insurance. Payment of $150 will be required at the time of service. 

Testing for Uninsured Patients

Patients who have no medical insurance can be tested for FREE under the federal CARES Act. If you have insurance, but we do not accept your plan, please inquire about self-pay rates. 

Protect Yourself and Others

You can’t isolate forever, but I strongly urge you to continue taking precautions as you venture out. Wear a mask in public places and when you can’t maintain a safe distance from others and remember that people who have underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19.

Stay well Chicago. 

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!

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.