Health

In the news... It's not too late to change your Thanksgiving get-together in an effort to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the top public health official in Illinois advised Monday. Stay home.

"Please--reconsider your plans," Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at Governor J.B. Pritzker's daily COVID-19 briefing, adding that the state does not have to have "super spreader" events in homes this Thursday.

Travel only if absolutely necessary. Celebrate this holiday remotely. "Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu," according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Tier Three Resurgence Mitigations--tighter measures statewide aimed at averting another stay-at-home order in Illinois--began Friday. Illinois--and the country--have been experiencing a record-breaking surge this fall in new cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

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For updates on the pandemic, check:  coronavirus.illinois.gov

Call:  1-800-889-3931, the COVID-19 information hotline, or email:  dph.sick@illinois.gov   To have pandemic updates sent directly to your cell phone, text covid to 312-500-3836.

Learn how to prepare for a telehealth session. 

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace ends December 15. Open enrollment for Medicare continues until December 7.

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More on Tier Three Mitigations

The new restrictions, listed in an executive order issued last week by Pritzker, apply to all of the state's 11 public health regions.

You won't be able to go to museums, theaters and casinos for a while. Other changes include:  large retail businesses such as Walmart and Target to stay open, with maximum capacity of 25%; grocery stores and pharmacies may operate at up to 50% capacity. At health and fitness centers, capacity of 25%, and no indoor group classes.

Remember Your Mask and Other Precautions

Make sure your face covering/mask covers your nose and mouth. Make a mask. Also, wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitzer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Social distance (stay 6 feet away from others). Get a flu shot.

Travel Guidance

Only three states in the country are not at higher risk for travel according to IDPH statistics dated November 17. These are:  Maine, Vermont and Hawaii.

Vaccine Updates

On Monday drug maufacturer AstraZeneca became the third company in less than a month to announce a COVID-19 vaccine. Competitor Pfizer and partner BioNTech on Friday asked the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of their COVID-19 vaccine, which they claim is more than 90% effective.

On November 16, Moderna said its own experimental COVID-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective.

An EUA gives the FDA the authority to allow the use of unapproved medical products during a public health emergency in the absence of other adequate, approved, or available alternatives.

The Pfizer vaccine will need to be kept in ultra-cold storage. Illinois is expected to receive about 400,000 doses initially. Hospital workers and first responders are to receive the vaccine first.

On Friday the FDA granted an EUA to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for casirivimab and imdevimab, administered together, for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus disease. The day before, the FDA approved an EUA for Eli Lilly and Company for baricitinib (Olumiant), in combination with remdesivir (Veklury) for patients requiring supplemental oxygen, invasive mechanical ventilation, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This year severely ill COVID-19 patients have been successfully treated with remdesivir.

Hospitalizations Soaring/Health Care Workers Drained

With the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals soaring, health care workers are exhausted. Reinforcements are sorely needed.

Illinois continues to appeal to retired health care workers and those close to completing their medical training to help fight COVID-19. In late March, Pritzker signed an executive order to make it easier for those candidates to join the cause.

Long-Term Care Facilities

The pandemic has claimed 5,782 lives in long-term care facilities, according to IDPH statistics. That's just slightly over half of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state.

Driver Services Facilities Close for Almost Three Weeks

Because of the exponential spread of COVID-19 in Illinois, driver services facilities are closed for in-person transactions. Reopening is scheduled for December 7, according to the Secretary of State's Office (SOS). Expiration dates for driver’s licenses and ID cards will be extended until June 1, 2021. The public is encouraged to use SOS online services.

Testing

Illinois continues its longtime effort to ramp up testing. To this end, within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 91,562 specimens Monday for a total to date of 9,892,981.

Demand has been up significantly at a number of testing centers, including the location closest to Des Plaines. You can get a free test without leaving your vehicle at the Arlington racetrack, 2000 W. Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights. Hours are 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. while daily supplies last. IDPH has a list of testing sites

In the north and northwest suburbs, free testing also will be available on Wednesday, November 25, at the Highwood Public Library, 102 Highwood Avenue, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., and on Sunday, November 29, at St. Ansgar Church, 2040 Laurel Avenue in Hanover Park, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. And, see IDPH for the most current mobile testing site location information.

IDPH reported Monday the preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percentage of total test from November 16-22 is 10.9%. This is calculated using total cases over total tests. Test positivity is derived from total positive tests over total tests. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity for the same period of time is 12.7%.

Veto Session Cancelled

There was no "veto" session last week. The Illinois General Assembly postponed it because of surging COVID-19 infection rates.

Mental Health/Medical Help

Call4Calm connects you to a mental health professional. It's free and anonymous. For English, text talk to 552020. For Spanish, text hablar to 552020.

To get help for someone with substance abuse, call:  1-833-2findhelp.  Or, go to:  helplineil.org

For those with COVID-19 symptoms who don't need in-patient care, there is daily telehealth monitoring. Northern Illinois:  1-866-443-2584... Central Illinois and Rockford: 1-833-673-5669...Southern and west central Illinois (+ Metro East):  1-217-545-5100.

Cases by Location

IDPH provides a breakdown by zip code and county of infections. In zip codes 60016 (3,158) and 60018 (1,874), Monday's total number of positive cases was 5,032.

COVID-19 statistics as of Monday, November 23:

lllinois, IDPH:   664,620 cases (8,322 new confirmed and probable cases). 11,552 deaths (47 new confirmed deaths). 9,892,981 total tests performed. (Total nucleic acid-based tests performed and reported electronically for testing of COVID-19 at IDPH, commercial or hospital laboratories.) Recovery rate:  97%. Recovered cases defined as persons with initial positive specimen collection data more than 42 days, who have not died.

As of 11:59 p.m., November 22, IDPH:  6,171 individuals with COVID-19 were hospitalized. Of those, 1,206 were in the intensive care unit (ICU). 635 of the ICU patients were on ventilators.

Nationwide (since January 21, 2020), as of November 23:  CDC:  12,175,921 total cases (147,840 new cases since November 22).  Total deaths: 255,958 (882 new deaths since November 22).

Globally as of November 23:  World Health Organization (WHO):  58,425,681 confirmed cases and 1,385,218 confirmed deaths, in 220 countries, areas or territories with cases.

Visit the following sites for additional information about COVID-19 and how to deal with this public health emergency:

 -- World Health Organization (WHO)

 -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

 -- New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)

 -- Illinois Department of Public Health

 -- Cook County Department of Public Health

 -- Johns Hopkins University of Medicine

The death toll in Illinois due to vaping remains at five, according to IDPH.      

Help try to prevent suicides. Options include:

 -- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255 (24/7)

 -- What can you do? The National Institute of Mental Health has details.  

 -- Veterans Crisis Hotline:  1-800-273-8255

Here's the latest on the opioid crisis.

Considering a career in health? Oakton Community College's spring information sessions have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact the health career advisor directly.

Oakton also has Continuing Education for Health Professionals (CEHP).