COVID-19 Telehealth Program Expands to Chicago, Northern Illinois

New statewide totals: 29,160 cases, 1,259 deaths

A state program that uses telemedicine to monitor patients with mild coronavirus symptoms, which has so far been available only in central and southern Illinois, is ready to be rolled out in the northern part of the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced at his daily briefing Saturday.

That news comes as Illinois saw its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rise to 29,160, including 1,259 coronavirus-related deaths – an increase of 1,585 cases and 125 deaths in a 24-hour period, tying a daily death toll record set Thursday.

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“Although our numbers continue to climb, it is with some guarded optimism that we say that the growth is slowing. That is definitely a good thing. But we must continue to be strong and hold the line and know people are getting tired of hearing the same message, but the same tactics continue to apply. Continue to stay home,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “Continue to wash your hands wear a mask if you go outside. Let’s keep up the progress we’ve made so far.”

The expanded patient monitoring program is eligible to anyone with, or believed to have, the coronavirus, regardless of whether or not they’re insured.

“Patients will receive daily virtual visits by health care workers and receive wellness kits that include things like thermometers and pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs and alcohol wipes,” Pritzker said. 

Patients in northern Illinois can access the program by calling a hotline at 866-443-2584.

Illinois is partnering with Advocate Aurora Health Care to administer the remote patient monitoring program in Chicago and the surrounding region.

Pritzker’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for information about how many individuals have participated in the downstate version of the program since its unveiling a week ago.

Illinois’ stay-at-home order is set to expire in less than two weeks, though Pritkzer on Friday canceled in-person school for the rest of the academic year. For anyone wondering whether they’ll be able to go ahead with Memorial Day weekend plans, spring weddings, summer family reunions or other events, there’s still no easy answer.

Federal government guidelines say gatherings won’t be permissible until 14 days after coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have diminished.

“But, you know, long past that actually (is) when we would have large gatherings,” Pritzker said.

The governor said he remains undecided as to whether his stay-at-home order will be extended into May.

“It’s difficult for me to advise people because there’s so many uncertainties ahead of us, you know, we don’t even know exactly where the peak will be. We won’t really know until you’re past the peak that you’ve hit the peak,” Pritzker said. “People need to be, you know, vigilant and keeping track of where we are in this process and making plans accordingly and I wish I could be more definite than that.”

Given that the bulk of Illinois’ COVID-19 cases are in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, some residents and downstate lawmakers are calling on the governor to ease restrictions in their areas first.

Pritkzer on Saturday indicated a reticence to adopt that approach, saying he worries about a rise in rural COVID-19 cases.

“I understand there are differences of the number of cases that are occurring in different parts of the state. And so I understand the desire to try to regionalize and I’m looking at the data to try to make determinations,” he said. “The rate of ascent of cases in rural areas seems to be have caught up with, and even surpassed in some areas, the rate of ascent of cases in urban areas.”

There are now confirmed coronavirus cases in 93 of Illinois’ 102 counties. State data shows zero cases as of Saturday in Putnam, Cass, Brown, Scott, Edgar, Edwards, White, Pope and Hardin counties.

Chicago has seen 12,007 confirmed cases while suburban Cook County accounts for 8,388 of the statewide case totals.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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