Sept. 8, 2020
Last week (Sept. 1), IHA President & CEO AJ Wilhelmi participated in an in-person meeting with Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The meeting was organized by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and hosted by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. In attendance, either in-person or by Webex video, were representatives of several healthcare associations and providers including hospitals, nursing homes and FQHCs as well as representatives from county health departments in the Chicago metropolitan area and other public health stakeholders. Dr. Birx is on a multi-state tour to discuss COVID-19 response issues with local officials and was in Chicago to get a better understanding of what she characterized as an effective response to date in the City of Chicago that has seen test positivity rates trend flat at around 5% throughout the summer months.
Participants attributed Illinois’ success to many factors, but most prominently to the unique communication and collaboration among hospitals, healthcare providers and government officials at the height of the pandemic. It was also noted that establishing and maintaining trust between the provider community and our government public health agencies has been critical. Meeting participants discussed various issues including availability of testing supplies and testing capacity, insurance coverage for COVID-19 testing, the extensive reporting requirements being imposed on hospitals and other healthcare providers, and Dr. Birx’s views on what may lie ahead.
Dr. Birx expressed concern about a possible autumn resurgence of COVID-19 infections and warned that a second surge could be more challenging due to the virus being more widespread, affecting all states, and now impacting rural as well as urban communities. Dr. Birx urged all stakeholders to be prepared for another wave of infection, to maximize community testing options, and to further strengthen the collaboration between medical providers and community organizations.