November 25, 2020
An Update on COVID-19 from the Health Program
The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to impact the environment in which our grantees are operating. Currently, COVID-19 infections are resurging, with 11 Illinois counties reaching the state’s warning level1 for infections and hospitalizations. There are also increasing infection rates and hospitalizations in the city of Chicago, which has led to the reinstatement of restrictive measures to slow the spread of the virus (e.g., limiting operating hours and indoor occupancy levels for businesses, especially restaurants and bars).
Since January 2020, grantees have adapted their operations to address the challenges of providing care in the midst of the pandemic, setting up patient triage systems for patients with critical primary or mental health care needs, shifting to telehealth services for patients with non-critical primary health care needs or behavioral health appointments, and offering COVID-19 testing. For example, Erie Family Health Center is a community-based, federally qualified safety net health clinic with multiple sites in the city, and it provides an example of how grantees have been adapting. Two of Erie’s locations, Erie’s Division Street Health Center and ErieTeen Center, are co-located in a building in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. The restrictive measures put in place at the onset of the pandemic proved challenging to health care providers like Erie, and Erie leadership closed the Teen Center. After successfully negotiating with the City of Chicago to lease and renovate additional unused space in the same building, Erie re-opened to provide COVID19/Urgent Care. The space has its own entrance and waiting room, six exam rooms and a dedicated lab. By re-purposing new and used space within its co-located clinics, Erie is now able to provide testing and clinical care for all of its patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Erie’s team is also launching a contact-tracing program in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health, to notify those who have been exposed and support them in getting linked to care.