Illinois Leaders Unite to Fight COVID-19

February 28, 2020

llinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today joined city and state public health officials to announce an extensive, coordinated effort to prevent spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Next week, the Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) will expand COVID-19 testing statewide, with new testing labs in the central and southern regions to join the existing testing lab in Cook County. Earlier this month, Illinois became the first state to provide in-state COVID-19 testing, allowing IDPH to produce results within 24 hours.  Following the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state will also partner with hospitals in every region to engage in voluntary testing, which will allow IDPH to diagnose new cases quickly and prevent any further community spread. Under the plan, certain emergency departments will soon begin testing select patients who present with influenza-like symptoms for COVID-19.

Outlined in a press release are city and state efforts to respond to this threat, including:

  • Airport screening and monitoring health of travelers returning from China;
  • Investigating confirmed cases of COVID-19 and monitoring friends and family who may have been exposed;
  • Planning community measures that can help limit the spread of disease, like having ill individuals stay home (including housing and transportation needs);
  • Providing regular guidance to hospitals and healthcare professionals, including information on infection control, personal protective equipment (PPE) supply planning, and clinical evaluation;
  • Working to expand local laboratory testing for COVID-19; and
  • Developing and distributing guidance for childcare facilities, schools, universities, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations, among many others.

In addition, health officials note the following important steps individuals and communities can take to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread:

  • Practice everyday preventive actions such as performing frequent hand hygiene, using hand sanitizer or soap and water when visibly soiled; covering your cough and sneezes; avoiding ill people; and staying home when sick (except to seek medical care);
  • Healthcare providers should continue to ask patients with fever and respiratory symptoms about their travel history. Refer to the CDC’s Guidance for Healthcare Professionals for more information on screening and evaluating Persons Under Investigation;
  • Childcare facilities, K-12 schools and colleges/universities should review their emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and online learning;
  • Businesses and employers should actively encourage all employees to stay home when sick, perform hand hygiene, and cover coughs and sneezes. Businesses should review their emergency operations plan, including identification of essential business functions, teleworking and flexible sick leave policies. For more information see CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers; and
  • Community- and faith-based organizations should review existing emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and modifying large gatherings such as concerts and festivals.

Officials also warned against stigmatization toward specific populations and said knowing the facts about COVID-19 will help minimize stigma and misinformation.

The (CDC) has made available a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-10) Hospital Preparedness Assessment Tool. This tool has been developed to assist hospitals to be prepared for the possible arrival of patients with the virus.

The checklist highlights important areas to review and elements to be assessed including:

  • Infection prevention and control policies and training for healthcare personnel (HCP);
  • Process for rapidly identifying and isolating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19;
  • Patient placement;
  • Transmission-based precautions (use Standard, Contact, Airborne Precautions plus eye protection for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases);
  • Movement of patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within the facility;
  • Hand hygiene;
  • Environmental cleaning;
  • Monitoring and managing HCP; and
  • Visitor access and movement within the facility.

More information can be found on the IDPH website, Chicago Department of Public Health website, CDC website, and IHA website. Questions can be directed to the IDPH hotline, 800-889-3931.