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

COVID-19 Life

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

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

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

Q: When will COVID-19 end? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flu & 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.

 

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. 

How Accurate is the Antibody Test? That Depends on Where You Go

COVID-19 Antibody Testing Accuracy

 

The COVID-19 antibody test allows those who had symptoms, yet were never tested for the virus, to determine if it was likely that they had COVID-19. We believe it’s rare for someone to become ill from COVID-19 a second time, so having the antibodies may offer a level of immunity to the virus. Innovative Express Care was among the first clinics in Chicago to offer COVID-19 antibody testing. We’ve seen thousands of patients to date, and almost everyone has the same question when they get their results — how accurate is the test? That answer largely depends on where you go and what test is being used. Innovative Express Care uses the test believed to be the most accurate on the market, the SARS-COV-2 test from Abbott. 

About the SARS-COV-2 Test

The SARS-COV-2 test requires a blood draw that looks for IgG antibodies. When antibodies are present, we are able to deduct that you may have already encountered the COVID-19 virus and therefore have some level of protection against the virus. The test is far more accurate than others on the market at this time, with 100 percent accuracy 17 days or more after virus symptoms began according to Abbott. Our tests are sent to Quest Diagnostics and results are available in 3-5 days. More information, including frequently asked questions and insurance codes can be found on our website

Safe, fast and efficient COVID-19 antibody testing

Antibody test appointments begin with a physician evaluation via telemedicine. During this virtual chat, we’ll make sure you qualify for the test (no symptoms for at least 14 days) and collect the necessary patient and insurance information. Then, either same-day or next day, you will come on-site for your blood test. There is no additional cost for the telemedicine portion of your appointment. This simply streamlines the process and helps you get in/out quickly on the day of your on-site visit. Book now.

Same-Day or Next-Day Appointments Available

We have increased our hours to meet the demand for COVID-19 antibody testing. Appointments are typically available same-day, or the next day and can be scheduled online. The antibody test is available to anyone who has not experienced symptoms of COVID-19 in at least 14 days and insurance is accepted. Appointments are required for this test.

COVID-19 Antibody Testing Available at Innovative Express Care

COVID-19 Antibody Testing

 

I’m excited to announce that we now offer COVID-19 antibody testing at Innovative Express Care. This is important, as the simple blood test will determine if you’ve already had the novel coronavirus (perhaps unknowingly), or if you are still at risk of getting sick. Here’s how it works and why it’s important.

COVID-19 launches a response in the body 

The COVID-19 virus causes our immune system to react and develop antibodies to fight the virus. When IgG antibodies are found in the blood, we can deduct that the individual has had COVID-19. The antibody test is fast and done right here in our office. We’ll send the blood sample to our lab and call you with results in 2-5 days. 

Why is antibody testing important? 

Antibody testing has many benefits. Patients who test positive for the antibodies will have peace of mind in knowing they are not likely to get sick, as the chance of getting COVID-19 a second time is very low. 

Individuals who are elderly or have underlying health conditions will benefit from knowing if they have antibodies so they can make informed decisions about how much socialization to resume. The COVID-19 antibody test will also provide important data on the scale of coronavirus infections in our community. 

Lastly, antibody testing will identify who is a potential candidate for plasma donation. Plasma is being explored as a possible treatment option for those critically ill with COVID-19. 

How do I get an antibody test?

Innovative Express Care offers antibody testing daily. You can schedule an appointment online. Insurance is accepted for the visit and test. Self-pay is also an option. 

Patients arriving for antibody tests will be evaluated at our outdoor medical tent prior to testing. If you are symptomatic or have been symptomatic in the last 14 days, we will also do a COVID-19 swab to check for the active virus. If you have not had any symptoms in 14 days, we will do only the antibody testing. 

This is exciting news and an important step in fighting COVID-19 in our community. Please share with family and friends and encourage them to get tested. Identifying who is at risk versus who has had the virus will lend important information to help us bend the curve.