Stephens, Doctors Explain Why Staying Isolated Is Vital
State Rep. Brad Stephens (R-20th) invited residents of his district to participate in a teleconference on the COVID-19 virus situation with physicians from two local hospital system emergency rooms on Monday (March 23) in an effort to provide resources and answer questions.
Dr. John Allegretti, from Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge (Advocate Aurora system) and Dr. Matthew Jordan from Presence Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago’s 41st Ward (Amita system) are specialists in emergency medicine at their respective hospitals.
Stephens and the doctors asked the public to follow Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders to stay secure, remain at home and practice “social distancing” at least six feet from other people, and take precautions to avoid spreading the infection. That’s also important for individuals in essential jobs who must work outside, but anyone who can work from home is asked to do so.
While he doesn’t take credit for it, Allegretti said doctors are sharing this sentiment: “We protect you by coming to work. You protect us by staying at home.”
The key issue with this coronavirus strain is that no one has developed a vaccine or a complete understanding of how to relieve its symptoms. It also appears to be continuing to evolve. It appears at different levels of severity, from moderate and mild to severe and critical. In lesser forms, it may seem to be a mild cold or simple flu. No one has built up immunities, and it will take months to develop a vaccine.
Jordan said the references in government releases to “flatten the curve” means that if people stay in self-isolation, it reduces the number of new infections that appear at once. It may not prevent them from eventually being sick, but there are only so many hospital beds or health care workers at once. Illinois has already seen a big spike in infections from a handful to the 296 new infections confirmed on Sunday, March 22.
Allegretti said the main symptoms which seem to be associated with COVID-19 are a dry persistent cough, general malaise and body aches. Some people experience gastric infections. Very few have fevers, which do not appear to be standard with this virus. Congestion is common with colds, flu and this virus. Flu tends to usually hit within a day, he added. Diagnosis is still difficult.
Health experts have observed that COVID-19 appears within about 14 days, so anyone exposed to someone who has been confirmed with the virus is sent home to “self-isolate” and stay in touch with their doctor online.
Lutheran General had established a testing site in one of its parking lots, for patients with doctors’ specific orders, taking a swab sample and sending the patients home till lab work was finished. That has stopped because after a week they were running low on test kits with no way to speed the manufacture of new ones, which they now are reserving for those with critical risk, especially senior citizens or those with other health issues.
The key way that COVID-19 spreads is through large respiratory droplets. They can travel through the air and land on people or on surfaces. Washing hands with soap and water, frequently, and avoiding touching the face or mouth or eyes, are highly recommended. The droplets of mucus can stay actively infectious for hours on some surfaces: an hour on cardboard, four or more hours on metal surfaces like toilet handles.
Disinfecting door knobs or gas station pumps, using disposable gloves or paper towels can protect people at public spaces where they shop.
The concept of “social distancing” at least 6 feet away from others is to avoid having the droplets transfer from person to person.
People working jobs where they might be exposed are advised to change clothes before going home.
Both hospitals have separated their facilities to COVID-19 cases vs. other health issues, both at the emergency rooms and the wings of the in-patient wards.
Asked if there were over-the-counter medicines people could take to relieve symptoms, Allegretti said the World Health Organization (WHO) has not restricted the use of N-seds, but if it is just for anti-inflammatory relief he would recommend using acetaminophen (generic versions of Tylenol).
Questions from listeners ranged from how to get help at home to whether they can trust food delivery.
A senior citizen on Meals on Wheels was advised that delivery volunteers could ring the doorbell and leave the parcel outside. If ordering a meal for pickup, Stephens suggested asking the restaurant what precautions they are taking.
How soon could he go back to work, a grocery employee asked. He’d been home a week on doctor’s orders but also had other health issues. He was advised to talk about the situation with the doctor. Waiting the full two weeks if he wasn’t feeling 100 percent, was suggested.
People who want to be helpful can stay in touch with neighbors by phone, help with errands when they do their own, or check the website, serve.illinois.gov, which is an organization also mentioned on the governor’s daily press briefings (2:30 p.m.).
Stephens said he has been adding the information for all those briefings to his office website repstephens.com. He invited those with questions to send an email to email@example.com or call the district office at 773-444-0611.
By ANNE LUNDE
Journal & Topics Reporter