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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. 

 

Teens Age 16-17 Now Eligible for a COVID Booster

Teen COVID BoosterLate last week, the CDC announced that teens age 16 and 17, who had their second COVID vaccine at least six months ago, should receive a booster dose

Only the Pfizer vaccine may be given as the booster dose for the 16-17 age group at this time. Patients 18 and older may receive either a Pfizer or Moderna booster per the CDC.  

Getting the booster is currently the best way to reduce the spread of the new variant, Omicron.

Booster vaccines (and dose 1 and 2 vaccines) are available at our Downers Grove clinic. Schedule online or simply walk-in for an appointment. 

We know that COVID news is constantly changing and it can be tough to keep up. Visit us online and keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates on vaccines, monoclonal antibody COVID treatment, antiviral medications and more.

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.

Will the seasonal flu return this year?

Last year was an unprecedented year for many reasons. COVID hit Chicago early in the year, which made working from home the norm and face coverings a part of our daily fashion. As a result, we had a surprisingly nonexistent flu season in 2020. Will that continue to be the case during the 2021/22 season? Likely not according to Dr. Khare. Here’s what he has to say about the upcoming flu season, including when he expects to see activity start, why you should get a flu vaccine and more. 

Q: Will the seasonal flu return this year?

A: Yes, I expect to see flu activity again this season. There are many reasons for this. Adults are coming back to work, kids are back in school, sporting events and theatre are back and quite frankly, people are ready to be out and about again. In addition, mask guidelines are less stringent in many places. Simply put, more interaction between people and less virus precautions will equal greater spread of viruses, including flu. 

Q: Why didn’t we have a flu season in 2020? 

A: In 2020, the majority of people stayed home more than ever before. They worked from home, they ordered groceries, they opted for carryout versus dining out, and schools had numerous virus mitigations including remote learning. All of these measures led to a decrease in flu activity, and fewer illnesses overall, including common things such as strep throat and the common cold. 

Q: Who should be vaccinated for the flu?

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. 

Q: When is the best time to get your flu shot? 

A: I advise patients to get their flu shot by early November so they are protected by Thanksgiving. We generally see flu activity ramp up by late November, with activity continuing through March. There is no reason for a “wait and see” approach, as the flu vaccine carries

Innovative Care offers flu shots at our urgent care clinic daily. You may also get your flu vaccine during visits with our primary care providers, or when you come for a COVID test.

High demand for monoclonal antibodies following positive COVID test

We have seen a tremendous increase in the demand for monoclonal antibodies in the last two months. More people are becoming aware of this FDA EUA authorized treatment for COVID-19, and many patients are immediately searching for monoclonal antibodies upon receiving a positive COVID test. 

Innovative Care began offering monoclonal antibodies at our COVID clinics in September. We have since doubled the amount of appointments available each week in an attempt to meet the demand. We will soon increase the number of appointments again so we can help more people. 

Why all the hype about monoclonal antibodies? 

Monoclonal antibodies are the only FDA EUA authorized outpatient treatment for COVID-19. When administered in the first 10 days that a patient experiences virus symptoms, monoclonal antibodies may significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and thereby lower the incidence of hospitalization. COVID-19 has crippled our healthcare system in many ways. Ensuring there are fewer hospitalizations from COVID-19 is one of the ways we can fight this pandemic. 

Monoclonal antibodies are most commonly administered to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who have conditions that make them at high risk for complications from the virus. However, family members of a positive patient may also qualify. Does your elderly aunt or grandmother live with you? Does your roommate have a condition that makes them at high risk for complications from COVID? If so, those individuals are also able to receive monoclonal antibodies as a preventative measure to help ensure they do not get sick. 

Are monoclonal antibodies a substitute for vaccination? 

No, monoclonal antibodies are not intended to be in place of the vaccine. However, if you have chosen not to be vaccinated, they are a line of defense for you. Likewise, vaccinated individuals can get monoclonal antibodies to help prevent serious illness. Monoclonal antibodies are another tool in our arsenal to fight COVID-19. 

How do I get an appointment?

If you or a loved one test positive for COVID-19 and wish to get monoclonal antibodies, schedule an appointment online. We offer monoclonal antibodies Monday through Friday between our Chicago and Downers Grove clinics. You can learn more or schedule your visit here

Innovative Care is proud to be among the first clinics in Chicago offering monoclonal antibodies. We have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in every way possible since it started and we will continue to offer the latest in treatments and testing

Innovative Care to Offer Monoclonal Antibody Treatment to COVID Positive Patients

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

Regen-COV infusion may lessen severity of virus and reduce the risk of complications for high-risk patients

COVID-19 can be serious, even life-threatening. If you test positive for COVID-19, and have symptoms, seeking monoclonal antibody treatment within the first 10 days may help you fight the virus and avoid serious complications and even death. Monoclonal antibody treatment is intended for people who are at a high risk of serious illness. Innovative Care will begin offering monoclonal antibody treatment to patients. 

Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a laboratory. They serve as substitute antibodies that help our immune systems mimic the defense of natural COVID-19 antibodies. Innovative Care uses the monoclonal antibody Regen-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab, administered together, made by Regeneron) to treat COVID positive patients. This treatment received FDA EUA approval in November, yet it is not widely available. Innovative Care is committed to fighting COVID and proud to offer a treatment for those who are fighting the virus. More information on Regen-COV can be found here. Insurance is accepted for this treatment. 

“We have been here to test and treat patients since the start of the pandemic. This is a natural progression for us to continue serving our community with COVID testing and care,” said Rahul Khare, MD, CEO and founder of Innovative Care. “Monoclonal antibodies attach to the spike protein and may aid your immune system as it works to fight the virus.”

Innovative Care will treat patients who qualify at their dedicated COVID clinic. Each visit begins with a provider consultation. If the patient opts to receive treatment, Regen-COV will be administered during the same appointment. The total infusion time is 20 minutes. Patients may also choose to forgo treatment. More information about what to expect can be found online here.  

Insurance Accepted

Innovative COVID accepts most major insurance plans, and 99 percent of people who get this treatment will not get a bill or pay for monoclonal antibody treatment. If the bill is not covered by insurance, there are funds to get this covered. By this mechanism, patients will not pay anything out of pocket for this treatment. If you do not have any medical insurance, your treatment will be covered under the federal CARES Act. 

More Information

Innovative Care has operated a COVID testing site for nearly 18 months. They are a leader in COVID testing and were among the first in Chicago to offer COVID antibody testing. Innovative Care also offers COVID vaccines at their Downers Grove clinic. For more information, visit Innovative Care online

Concert Goers Who Are Sneezing, Sniffling, Coughing or have a Sore Throat, Should Get Tested for COVID

It’s early in the week, but we are already seeing Lolla concert goers coming in with a sore throat, coughs and sniffles. Does this mean they caught COVID? No, but it does mean that they should be tested for the virus. 

Assume you have been exposed

Events the size of Lollapalooza almost guarantee you have been exposed to COVID. If you are vaccinated, you have a chance of avoiding illness, but please know that breakthrough infections are happening at a high rate. The tricky part is this…people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 typically have only minor symptoms. Oftentimes, these are symptoms that wouldn’t even raise a red flag. The biggest finding from the recent CDC report is that vaccinated people can get COVID-19 AND they are still highly contagious! That’s why we recommend that people be tested if they have any symptom out of the ordinary, even if they are vaccinated. 

Living with COVID

The Delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID going around right now. It is highly contagious, so identifying it as the cause of symptoms early is key to stopping it from spreading. Innovative Care offers COVID testing seven days a week at our Lincoln Park clinic. We also have a COVID testing site in Downers Grove

The best protection against COVID-19 is to increase the number of people who are vaccinated. This virus is not going away, and it will continue to mutate along the way. We must learn to live with COVID, which means 1) get vaccinated 2) test if you have symptoms and 3) do your part to protect others, i.e. mask up when warranted. 

Vaccines Available in Downers Grove

If you have not yet been vaccinated, know that it offers your best protection against COVID. Schedule a vaccine appointment online at our Downers Grove clinic. This clinic also offers COVID testing.

COVID Cases Climbing at Innovative Care Testing Center

A sudden spike in COVID-19 test positivity rates suggests the virus is making its way back into our community. Innovative COVID, our testing site located at 1111 W. Diversey Parkway, is seeing an average positivity rate of around 5% this week to date. Just two weeks ago, the positivity rate at our clinic was holding steady at around 0.5 to 1%. 

This is a dramatic increase in positivity rate. Right on the heels of Lollapalooza and the city opening up. If you haven’t already, you’re going to be hearing about someone you know getting COVID even after getting the vaccine. Let’s figure out what this means.

Who is at Risk?

Unvaccinated individuals are at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, period. If you are eligible to get vaccinated, please do so. This is our best defense against COVID. Vaccinated individuals are not 100 percent protected from the virus, but they have a far lower risk of serious illness. Vaccination offers a significant level of protection to the individual. It also helps protect others around you. 

What is the Delta Variant? 

The CDC is watching new strains closely, as variants of the virus have the potential to spark new waves of illness. One variant in particular that is on the CDC watch list is the Delta strain (B.1.617.2). This mutation of COVID-19 was first detected in India in February 2021. This strain of COVID-19 is active in the United States and should be taken seriously. Early data has shown that if you have been vaccinated, the strain most likely will not affect you. Unvaccinated individuals are at the greatest risk. That said, breakthrough infections (COVID-19 in people who are vaccinated) do happen. The good news is this…if you’ve been vaccinated, you will have a lighter, more mild case of the virus. The flu vaccine works very much the same way. Getting the flu vaccine does not mean you can’t catch the flu. It does however mean that if you do catch it, your case will be more mild due to the fact that you have some level of protection. I strongly recommend that anyone who is eligible be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Who should be tested for COVID-19?
  • Anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should be tested, whether they are vaccinated or not
  • Unvaccinated individuals who have had a known exposure to the COVID-19 virus should be tested 5-7 days after that exposure, even if they do not have symptoms. 
If I’m vaccinated and get exposed, do I really need to get tested?

This is a tricky one. Here’s the issue, the Delta strain is extremely contagious. As we are seeing at Innovative Care, the vaccine does not fully protect you from getting COVID-19 again. You’ve probably seen news stories about this, but what the media does not mention enough is this: If you have received a vaccine, the risk of you being hospitalized due to COVID-19 illness is very low

Which means: vaccinated people can get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, however, their illness is extremely mild. But here’s the other tricky part, these people with mild symptoms who are positive for COVID-19 are still contagious. There are children and unvaccinated individuals who are still susceptible to getting very sick, or may even die, from a COVID-19 illness. This means that if you are exposed to COVID-19, and will be with people who are vulnerable (unvaccinated or have significant comorbidities), you should get tested.

Catching COVID-19 cases early allows us to isolate and stop the virus from spreading to others. Innovative Care offers COVID-19 testing seven days a week at our Diversey clinic. Appointments are recommended, but not required. Walk-ins are welcome. 

Will we see another shutdown?

While we certainly hope not, it is possible that we will see restrictions be put back in place. Numerous countries are struggling with a resurgence of COVID-19. Mask requirements, and if needed, restrictions play an important role in protecting those most vulnerable. Our priority remains to get as many people vaccinated as possible so we can continue to keep businesses open and events happening. 

Avoid COVID Fatigue

After 16 plus months of COVID-19 talk, it’s normal to be “over it” and want to move on. Let’s face it…everyone wishes this was all just a bad dream. Sadly, it’s not, and it will take effort from all of us to get rid of COVID-19 in our community. Our team has been here since day one, and we will continue to serve our community through virus testing and care. I ask that you do your part as well. Get vaccinated. Get tested if you are symptomatic and take isolation guidelines seriously if you are unvaccinated and exposed to the virus. If we all continue to do our part, we will continue to enjoy dinners out, baseball games, concerts and more. Hang in there, Chicago!

Easy Lolla Testing at Innovative Care

Lolla COVID Testing

If you are planning to party at Lollapalooza, you will need proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result (within 72 hours) to enter the music festival. Innovative Care offers hundreds of testing appointments daily, at two city locations, to get you ready to rock. Here’s what you should know: 

Test before the Fest

Lollapalooza will require proof of a negative COVID test from anyone who is unvaccinated. Your rapid COVID test must be performed within 72 hours of your entry to the music festival.

Easy Access to Fast Results

Innovative Care has two clinics to serve Lolla festival goers. Innovative COVID accepts insurance (or you can self-pay). COVID of Chicago is self-pay only. Both clinics offer a discounted Lolla testing rate for rapid COVID tests.

Innovative COVID – 1111 W. Diversey Parkway

  • Insurance is accepted. If you have a plan we do not accept, you will pay a discounted $100 Lolla rate for your rapid test (show us your wristband for this rate). This occurs rarely since we accept most major insurance plans (less than 1 in 100 people self-pay). 
  • If you have NO medical insurance, we will test you for FREE using the CARES Act 
  • Easy drive-thru testing
  • Results in 15-30 minutes via email, or wait on-site and take your printed documentation with you.  

COVID of Chicago – 1240 N Halsted

  • Self-pay only. We do not accept insurance at this location. 
  • $100 Lolla rate (show us your wristband for the discounted rate)
  • Results in 15-30 minutes via email, or wait on-site and take your printed documentation with you.  
Keep Rockin’

Proof of vaccination is likely to become commonplace for entry into events. Virus strains, such as the Delta variant, are continuing to fuel COVID-19. If you have not been vaccinated, please do so to help curb this pandemic. The vaccines being offered in the United States are effective against the Delta variant strain and offer our best protection. Until more people are vaccinated, the virus will continue to alter our lives. Keep rocking and avoid the need to test prior to events by getting vaccinated