COVID, Cold & Flu Clinic Testing Available in Chicago & Western Suburbs Book Now
Book an appointment

Innovative Primary Care Now Open in Logan Square

I’m excited to announce that Innovative Primary Care has expanded to offer more appointment availability and a second location to serve our patients. Our new primary care office is located in Logan Square, at 2363 N. California Avenue. Margarita Ruiz, PA is currently accepting new patients at this location. We will continue to add new providers and more appointment availability as we get settled in this additional clinic space. 

About Margarita Ruiz, PA

Margarita has been serving patients in Logan Square for 10 years. She received her undergraduate education at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and her Physician Assistant education at Malcolm X College in Chicago. Margarita enjoys helping patients make healthy lifestyle choices and is available for annual physicals, adult and senior care, sick visits, medication management and more. Schedule an appointment with Margarita online

About Innovative Primary Care 

Innovative Primary Care offers appointments in-person at two office locations, and via telemedicine. We see patients six days a week and offer easy, online scheduling. Whether you need an annual physical, or assistance with a new health issue, we are here to help. Innovative Primary Care also offers a new weight management program focused on helping you achieve an optimal weight for your health. 

Stay tuned for more provider updates and news as we launch our new clinic in Logan Square.

New COVID Quarantine & Mask Guidelines

New isolation and mask guidelines have been issued by the CDC for individuals who are COVID-19 positive, or who have been exposed to the virus. The changes include a shorter quarantine period, and mask guidelines for everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated. Here’s what you need to know.

Why did the guidelines change? 

Omicron is spreading rapidly, putting hundreds of thousands people in isolation due to positive cases or exposure to the virus. This is putting a strain on our healthcare system, small businesses and our economy overall. Some businesses have been without enough people to work, forcing them to close for periods of time. 

In addition, omicron appears to be a much milder variant than previous COVID-19 variants such as delta. As such, most people will experience only minor symptoms, and some no symptoms at all. 

Why do we need to quarantine at all if omicron is so mild? 

While the omicron COVID-19 variant will only produce mild illness for most, it’s important to remember that there are a considerable number of people who remain at high risk for complications from the virus. We must continue to take precautions to protect the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and people with health conditions that make them susceptible to severe illness. 

Is it risky to come off of quarantine so soon? 

Masks are key. If you are feve free and have only mild symptoms (or no symptoms) after five days, it’s relatively safe to come out of quarantine as long as you continue to take precautions such as masking, washing your hands regularly, etc. Individuals who have not completed a full 10 day quarantine for a positive case, or who have been exposed to COVID-19, should wear a mask (even if vaccinated).  

Visit the CDC for more information about the new COVID quarantine and mask protocols. 

 

COVID Antiviral Pill Receives FDA EUA Approval

Pfizer’s Paxlovid antiviral tablet for COVID received  an emergency use authorization (EUA)by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today. This medication is used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients over the age of 12, if they meet the weight requirement, and who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms. Paxlovid will be available by prescription only. The medication should be initiated as soon as possible after a positive COVID test is obtained, within five days of symptom onset. 

This is the first treatment for COVID-19 in the form of a pill

This is the first antiviral treatment for COVID-19 in the form of a pill, and it’s a big deal. It has the potential to be a game-changer in our quest to fight COVID-19 successfully by reducing the amount of serious illness and hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19 infections. We are in the midst of a significant surge in infections, so an additional tool in our arsenal is important. 

Paxlovid is taken as three tablets taken orally together (two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir), twice daily, for five days. In total, a patient takes 30 tablets. Nirmatrelvir works to inhibit a SARS-CoV-2 protein to stop the virus from replicating. Ritonavir slows down Nirmatrelvir’s breakdown to help it remain in the body for a longer period of time at higher concentrations. Used together, the medication is marketed as Paxlovid. To be eligible for Paxlovid, you must be age 12 or older, and at least 88 pounds. 

When will Paxlovid be available to patients? 

We will be able to prescribe Paxlovid once it is sent to pharmacies. We expect this to happen by mid-January, 2022. Additional information about Paxlovid can be found in the EUA approval and in the FAQs issued by the FDA. We will share updates about Paxlovid availability as we learn more. 

Additional COVID Treatment – Monoclonal Antibodies

Innovative Care has dedicated COVID clinics to offer testing, vaccines and treatment. We offer monoclonal antibody treatment to COVID positive patients who are within 10 days of symptom onset and who have risk factors that leave them vulnerable to complications from the virus. A complete list of qualifications for monoclonal antibody treatment can be found on our website. Monoclonal antibody treatment is available in Lincoln Park and Downers Grove. 

Omicron in Chicago

Nearly 75 percent of COVID cases in Chicago are due to the omicron variant. We know this variant is very contagious. In addition, there are a significant number of breakthrough cases. Please continue to exercise caution and be vigilant this holiday season so we can prevent further COVID spread. Clinics are full, hospitals are overtaxed and treatment is becoming difficult to find.

New COVID Antibody Drug Evusheld Coming Soon

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a medication called Evusheld this week. The drug, made by AstraZeneca, has the potential to play an important role in preventing COVID-19 infection among a vulnerable population of people for whom the vaccine is either not recommended, or who take immunosuppressive medications and do not mount an adequate immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Since it can be hard to keep track of the latest COVID breakthroughs – both in treatment and prevention – here’s a breakdown of what you should know. 

New Antibody Drug for Most Vulnerable

Evusheld is to be used by a specific patient population before COVID exposure. It is a prophylactic medication designed to prevent infection. It is not a treatment for COVID. Two categories of patients qualify for Evusheld:

  1. Those who have a moderately to severely compromised immune system due to a medical condition, or due to taking immunosuppressive medications or treatments, who therefore may not mount an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. Medical conditions that qualify include but are not limited to the following:
    • Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
    • Receipt of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
    • Receipt of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
    • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    • Advanced or untreated HIV infection 
    • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20 mg prednisone or equivalent per day when administered for ≥2 weeks), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory (e.g., B-cell depleting agents)
  2. Those who have a history of severe adverse reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine and/or components of those vaccines, and are therefore not eligible (or advised against getting) for the COVID vaccine

Evosheld is not an alternative to vaccine for the average person. It is an additional tool in our arsenal to fight COVID that is designed for a specific patient population. If you are not vaccinated, this is a medication that could save your life.

Antiviral Pills Coming Soon

Merck and Pfizer will soon debut new antiviral pills to target COVID infection. Here’s what we know so far…

Molnupiravir (Merck) has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 by 30 percent if taken within five days of the onset of symptoms. 

The antiviral made by Pfizer may perform even better. An early analysis of the Pfizer pill suggests it may be up to 85 percent effective in reducing hospitalization and death if taken within the first five days of the start of symptoms. 

Things are rapidly changing on the COVID treatment front, but one thing is for sure. The more tools we have to limit infection and prevent serious illness, the better. The Omicron variant is now in Chicago and while it’s yet to be seen if it will cause serious illness, we do know that it is highly contagious and can fuel an increase in virus cases. 

Both antiviral pills may be authorized by year’s end and available in early 2022. Innovative Care will continue to watch this closely, and we will offer options to patients as soon as they become available. 

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment 

Monoclonal antibody treatment aims to prevent serious illness from COVID. Innovative Care offers monoclonal antibody treatment to COVID positive patients who are within 10 days of the symptom onset and who have risk factors that leave them vulnerable to complications from the virus. A complete list of qualifications for monoclonal antibody treatment can be found on our website. Monoclonal antibody treatment is available in Lincoln Park and Downers Grove. 

Innovative Care Testing & Treatment

Innovative Care has dedicated COVID clinics to offer testing, vaccines and treatment. We will continue to keep you apprised of the latest offerings as we continue to navigate through this ongoing pandemic.

4 Facts About the Omicron COVID Variant

As families started to gather for the holiday season, news broke of a new COVID variant that has the potential to wreak havoc on lightened mitigations and spread like wildfire. The omicron variant has been detected in nearly 40 countries, including the United States. As news reports fly in, many people have been asking me what this all means. Below are four facts about omicron that I want you to know. 

Omicron is a reminder that COVID is not over.

Viruses mutate and change, which can dramatically impact how serious and how contagious they are. We know omicron is highly contagious. We do not yet have enough data to determine its severity, but early reports out of Africa suggest symptoms may be mild to moderate for most people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of omicron are the same as previous COVID strains. The new strain has been confirmed in nearly 40 countries, and just this week, Omicron was identified in the United States

Our existing PCR and rapid testing methods will identify the omicron variant.

Labs are able to identify which variant is present in a positive test, but don’t expect to see this on your test results. Patients will still see a simple positive or negative reading, because the specific variant type does not change the treatment options, symptoms, or precautions such as isolation timing. 

An additional booster, specific to the new strain, may be necessary.

Scientists are currently studying the omicron variant, which contains 24 changes to the spike protein. This is significantly more than with other variants, such as the delta variant, and as such, may require that people get an additional booster for protection. The good news is, a booster could be developed very quickly, perhaps in as little as six weeks. More information will be available in the coming days and weeks, but I do expect we’ll see additional boosters coming down the pipeline soon. 

The longer a virus is active, the more opportunity it has to mutate and turn into new variants of the original virus.

This is why vaccination is so important. Future iterations of COVID-19 have the potential to be more severe in nature. This could lead to more hospitalizations, or a higher death rate. At this point, we know omicron is highly contagious. It is yet to be seen how severe the symptoms are in comparison to previous variants. If you received your vaccine over six months ago, it’s time for a booster dose. If you are unvaccinated, please reconsider your choice and schedule a vaccine appointment at our Downers Grove clinic.  

Our COVID clinics are now full respiratory health testing sites. If you are symptomatic, our providers will evaluate your symptoms (ears, nose, throat, lung) and order the appropriate tests. In addition to COVID/flu,this may include strep throat or mononucleosis (mono).

Our urgent care is also open seven days a week for more complex or urgent needs. Innovative Express Care also offers COVID testing. 

5 Tips for Celebrating Safely this Thanksgiving

Vaccinated or not, you need to bring a dish of precaution to the Thanksgiving table this year. Illinois and the Chicago area are in the midst of a new wave of COVID activity. If your circle is anything like mine, you most likely know someone with COVID right now. Countless kids are quarantined from school and positivity rates are continuing to climb. 

Go for quality over quantity

Keep your table on the smaller side this year. Enjoy quality time with a smaller group versus having a large gathering. The holidays can be just as small when done as an intimate gathering. 

Enjoy the outdoors if possible

While your dinner table may be smaller this year, you can still gather with extended family to celebrate the holiday. Outdoor activities are a safer option than dining in close quarters. Head to Michigan Avenue to see the holiday lights, visit the Christkindlmarket or take a fall nature walk together. You can still enjoy time with loved ones in a safer manner that protects those who are unvaccinated or at high risk of complications from COVID.

Test before you celebrate if not everyone is vaccinated

If you are getting together with children or adults who are unvaccinated, please get a COVID test before you gather. Testing does not eliminate risk altogether, but it is a precaution worth taking. Innovative Care is open through Wednesday for testing, and closed on Thanksgiving day. We will be back open on Black Friday through the weekend. COVID testing is quick and easy. You can schedule online or walk-in for an appointment.

Get vaccinated & boosted

Your best protection for a safe holiday season is to get vaccinated. The holidays are fast approaching. If you get vaccinated now, you can still get your second dose in by the Christmas holiday and be fully vaccinated by New Years. If you were vaccinated, but your second dose was more than six months ago, it’s time for a booster shot. The CDC announced last week that all United States adults over age 18 are now eligible for a booster dose six months after their second shot (if Moderna or Pfizer) or original dose (if Johnson & Johnson) was given. Vaccines are available at our Downers Grove location seven days a week. We have both Moderna and Pfizer available, as well as the pediatric dose of Pfizer.

Unfortunately, we aren’t out of the woods yet. COVID is still running rampant in our community and has been on an upward trend these last few weeks. Our positivity rate at the Diversey clinic is hovering around 10 percent, which is concerning. Please take precautions and continue to take this pandemic seriously as you gather with family and friends this season.

Molnupiravir: Antiviral Expected to be the Next Tool to Curb COVID Pandemic

Molnupiravir

Curbing the COVID pandemic requires more than just lowering virus transmission. We also need tools to address virus symptoms and lower the rate of hospitalization due to COVID.  Monoclonal antibodies are currently the only FDA EUA authorized treatment for COVID-19, but soon there may be another tool in our arsenal, an oral antiviral medication called Molnupiravir. This medication, which was originally developed as a potential treatment for the flu, would be the first pill to treat COVID-19. 

When will Molnupiravir be available? 

Molnupiravir may be available to newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients who are at high risk for serious illness by the end of the year. The oral medication will be taken twice a day for five days following COVID diagnosis. Merck is pursuing emergency use authorization for the drug following successful clinical trials, which reported that Molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 50 percent. 

What does this mean for patients? 

Having another tool to reduce hospitalization from COVID-19 will help our healthcare system bounce back from the pandemic. Another treatment to prevent serious illness will also reduce the number of COVID deaths, and the fact that it is in pill form makes it more convenient and accessible to patients than the intravenous options currently available. 

Will Innovative offer Molnupiravir? 

We are committed to serving our community until the COVID pandemic is under control. Innovative Care has been at the forefront of testing and treatment for COVID to date and we will continue to offer the latest treatment options, including Molnupiravir when it becomes available. 

Patients who are seeking treatment for COVID-19 currently can schedule a monoclonal antibody treatment online. We offer monoclonal antibodies five days a week between our Chicago and Downers Grove clinics. 

For more information about Innovative Care’s COVID testing and treatment options, visit or website.

Flu shots now available

Flu season is expected to begin in just a few short weeks. According to Dr. Khare, this year, it’s more important than ever to get your flu vaccine. Wondering why? Here are three solid reasons:

The flu vaccine offers your best defense against the flu. It’s that simple. Yes, we know you have a friend who swears that it makes him or her sick. This is false. The flu vaccine significantly lowers your chance of getting sidelined by the flu this season. It will also dramatically reduce your symptoms if you do in fact contract the flu.

COVID-19 is still active in the community. Flu symptoms can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms. If you catch the flu, it will not only sideline you physically, but it will also warrant that you get a COVID-19 test and keep you in quarantine while you wait for the results. Getting a flu vaccine is simple, affordable and will help you stay healthy so you can resume your normal activities. 

Staying well will reduce your COVID-19 risk. The best way to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 is to wear a mask in public, get the flu vaccine and continue to social distance.

Flu Vaccines available at Innovative Express Care 

Flu vaccines are available by appointment at our urgent care clinic located at 2400 N. Ashland Avenue (corner of Ashland and Fullerton). You must be well, with no symptoms of illness, to get the vaccine. Schedule your flu shot here. 

Patients who have an appointment for COVID-19 testing may request a flu shot during their visit to 1111 W. Diversey Parkway. The flu shot is only offered as an add-on to your COVID-19 swab. If you only need a flu vaccine, visit our urgent care. Patients must be well, with no signs of illness or fever to get their flu shot. 

When should I get my flu vaccine? 

Flu activity generally begins in October and runs into the spring months. The earlier you get vaccinated the better because it takes two weeks to build up your immunity. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six-months of age and older, unless you are allergic. It is especially important for high-risk individuals, which include infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly, as well as those with underlying health conditions. 

For more information about this year’s flu season, or the vaccine, visit us online.

Pfizer Vaccine Boosters Approved for Additional High-Risk Individuals

Pfizer Vaccine BoostersThere has been a lot of debate about COVID-19 booster vaccines, including whether they are necessary, at what point in time, and for whom they are most appropriate. On Friday, the FDA Advisory Committee voted on the use of Pfizer vaccine boosters. Since there is a lot of misinformation out there, I will summarize their decision for you here. 

Pfizer Booster Vaccine Decision

The committee reviewed extensive data, including the current situation in the United States (COVID cases, hospitalization, vaccinations and vaccine effectiveness), and scientific studies before voting. There was a lot of discussion and debate. Two votes were held to decide who should receive a Pfizer booster vaccine. The first vote was to determine if boosters should be given to all individuals. This did not pass and was voted down.  The second vote was to determine who specifically should receive a Pfizer booster vaccine. The criteria that passed the vote (unanimously) was to give a Pfizer booster vaccine to the following individuals:

People who previously received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with their second dose being at least 6 months ago, AND who…

  • Are age 65+
  • Are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 (clarification yet to come on who this may include)
  • Are at high risk for occupational exposure to COVID-19 (this includes healthcare workers and others to be determined)
Can I Go Get My Booster Vaccine? 

Even if you qualify for a booster vaccine based on the criteria passed during the vote, this does not mean that you can or should go out and get a booster immediately. There are still regulatory steps that must take place, including an official authorization being made (FDA EUA authorization). The CDC advisory committee must also meet to discuss the guidance and make their own recommendations on the matter. This is where we may see additional fine-tuning, such as what is considered to put someone at risk for severe COVID-19, and what occupations beyond healthcare workers should be included. If you are interested in really digging into this topic, you can find the presentation materials here

Vaccinations Available in Downers Grove

Innovative Care is currently offering vaccine doses 1 and 2 of both the Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines at our Downers Grove clinic. We are also offering booster vaccines for certain immunocompromised individuals per the August FDA EUA Authorization. We are not yet offering Pfizer boosters to the extended population (voted on September 18, 2021 for over age 65, healthcare workers), but we will expand our criteria to see those patients as soon as the respective FDA Emergency Use Authorization is in place. Vaccine appointments can be made online

Five Ways to Help Your Community Through COVID

Prevent serious illness if you do get COVID

Being vaccinated does not mean you are bulletproof to COVID. It does however significantly lower your risk of serious illness and complications from the virus. This means you are unlikely to require hospitalization for your symptoms. 

If you do get sick, getting a monoclonal antibody infusion is an additional step you can take to ensure you do not become seriously ill. This FDA EUA approved treatment is the only known treatment for COVID. It works by infusing antibodies into your body to fight the virus. Monoclonal antibodies are administered via an IV during a short infusion performed at our clinic (about 20-30 minutes). You’ll then be monitored for an hour before heading home to recover and rest. Innovative Care began offering monoclonal antibody treatment this week. Insurance covers the cost. Uninsured patients will be covered by the CARES Act. There is no cost to patients. 

It is critical that we prevent hospitalizations from COVID so our hospital system is not overburdened and unable to care for all patients. Treating COVID symptoms with monoclonal antibodies within the first 10 days may help. 

Continue to be COVID cautious

Indoor mask mandates are back in Illinois as of 8/26/2021 when the Governor announced further mitigation strategies. Please take this seriously. Healthcare workers have been wearing masks for decades. This is not a new strategy to prevent illness. Do your part, distance, wear masks and don’t give up. 

Get vaccinated

The number one way you can help your community is by getting vaccinated. Per the Governor’s press conference today, 96 percent of hospitalizations due to COVID are in unvaccinated individuals.Our Downers Grove clinic offers COVID vaccines seven days a week. Appointments can easily be scheduled online

Thank a healthcare worker

It’s been 18 months since this pandemic started. Healthcare workers who were hopeful in the spring as virus spread and hospitalizations decreased, are once again exhausted and fatigued. Take a moment to recognize someone you know on the front lines. A simple thank you can go a long way as they continue their mission to beat COVID. 

Support local businesses

Every time virus activity spikes, local businesses lose customers. Whether it be from capacity restrictions, people staying home, or staff illness, it has a huge impact on their ability to succeed. Continue to shop local whenever possible and treat yourself to a carryout meal from your favorite neighborhood spot to help them continue to thrive during this unprecedented time. 

We can do this together. Stay well, Chicago.