Ad­vo­cate hospi­tals paus­ing drive-thru

Na­tional short­age of test kits forces pro­gram stop­page

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CORONAVIRU­S OUTBREAK - By Angie Leven­tis Lour­gos and David Heinz­mann Chicago Tri­bune re­porters Hal Dardick and Peter Nick­eas con­trib­uted to this story. eleven­[email protected]­bune.com dheinz­[email protected]­bune.com

Days after it be­gan to ramp up drive-thru test­ing for pa­tients who may be in­fected with the novel coron­avirus, the Ad­vo­cate Aurora Health hos­pi­tal sys­tem an­nounced Fri­day that it has sus­pended that pro­gram be­cause of a na­tional short­age of test kits and pro­cess­ing ma­te­ri­als.

Ad­vo­cate said in a news re­lease that state health of­fi­cials and the Illi­nois Health and Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion were seek­ing “to con­serve tests for those in crit­i­cal need.”

“It’s an on­go­ing is­sue for all our hospi­tals in Illi­nois and across the coun­try,” said Danny Chun, spokesman for the Illi­nois Health and Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion. “There are very lim­ited sup­plies of test­ing kits, nasal swabs and reagents — chem­i­cals used to test the spec­i­mens — in large part due to the very small roll­out of test kits by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.”

The scarcity of test­ing ma­te­ri­als is be­ing ex­ac­er­bated by the rapid in­crease in the num­bers of peo­ple in­fected with the novel coron­avirus, in­clud­ing high­risk groups such as the el­derly, nurs­ing home res­i­dents and peo­ple with ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions, Chun said.

“Ev­ery hos­pi­tal in this state is work­ing to set up test­ing pro­cesses, but they’re ham­strung by the lack of avail­able test­ing kits and test­ing sup­plies,” he said, adding that it’s im­pos­si­ble to quan­tify the short­age or give an ac­cu­rate num­ber of avail­able tests statewide.

Chun’s blunt as­sess­ment stands in stark con­trast to the pub­lic state­ments of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who has re­peat­edly pledged a dra­matic in­crease in test kits for the new virus.

“It’s go­ing very well,” Trump said at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day, when asked about labs across the coun­try re­port­ing a lack of test­ing sup­plies. “We in­her­ited an ob­so­lete deal and we’ve made a good thing of it.”

“More and more tests are be­ing per­formed ev­ery day,” Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence added.

The new coron­avirus has sick­ened around 15,000 peo­ple na­tion­wide and caused five deaths in Illi­nois.

Al­li­son Lan­thrum, of west sub­ur­ban St. Charles, ex­pressed frus­tra­tion after sev­eral at­tempts to get coron­avirus test­ing for her 2-year-old son, who ex­hib­ited symp­toms of the dis­ease in­clud­ing sore throat, in­tense cough and a fever that just broke after six days. Yet she’s been stymied each time be­cause of the state’s strin­gent test­ing guide­lines.

“It’s pretty ter­ri­fy­ing,” she said. “I am so pow­er­less, be­cause at this point there is noth­ing we can do. We can’t get a test.”

Each health care provider has asked if her son has re­cently trav­eled to a higher-risk coun­try or had con­tact with a con­firmed coron­avirus pa­tient, she said.

“They said specif­i­cally, has he been in con­tact with a con­firmed case, and I laughed be­cause I don’t know any­one who has been tested,” she said. “But I know a lot of peo­ple who need and want to get tested. How can we at­tempt to con­trol this virus if we don’t know where it is? If we’re not test­ing ev­ery­one who has the symp­toms, at least.”

Lan­thrum also ex­pressed con­cern about the lack of test­ing on a na­tional scale.

“It would af­fect the data, the es­sen­tial data be­ing col­lected in or­der to be­gin to con­trol the virus,” she said. “And with­out that, we have noth­ing. We shouldn’t have to pri­or­i­tize. We should have had enough tests two months ago.”

John Collins, 57, of Crys­tal Lake said he also was un­suc­cess­ful in get­ting tested even though he suf­fered typ­i­cal symp­toms and his med­i­cal provider ruled out other pos­si­ble ail­ments.

“I re­al­ize there’s a test­ing short­age,” he said. “That’s a prob­lem. But how do you man­age this if you don’t know the num­bers that are sick? We’re tak­ing all the nec­es­sary steps across the coun­try to flat­ten the curve. But if you don’t know where it’s at, how do you di­rect re­sources?”

As the num­ber of coron­avirus cases rises in Illi­nois each day, state health of­fi­cials say they’re help­ing hospi­tals and labs de­velop their own test­ing abil­ity. The state is also work­ing with fed­eral of­fi­cials to set up drive-thru test­ing sites “in some of the hard­est-hit ar­eas of the state,” Dr. Ngozi

Ezike, di­rec­tor of the Illi­nois De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health, said at a news con­fer­ence Fri­day.

She said one of those sites will be op­er­ated by the state, with fed­eral support, while sev­eral oth­ers are gov­ern­ment part­ner­ships with pri­vate re­tail­ers Wal­greens and Wal­mart.

A coron­avirus drive-up test­ing site will be open­ing soon in the park­ing lot of a Wal­mart in west sub­ur­ban North­lake, ac­cord­ing to city of­fi­cials there. The com­pany said the big-box re­tailer is look­ing at sev­eral other Chicago-area pi­lot sites but didn’t give spe­cific lo­ca­tions or start dates.

Some lo­cal hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said Fri­day that they have no im­me­di­ate plans to re­duce COVID-19 test­ing. A spokesman for Ed­wardElmhur­st Health said the med­i­cal provider in­tends to con­tinue test­ing with­out changes.

And while Rush Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter isn’t de­creas­ing its test­ing now, act­ing chief qual­ity of­fi­cer Dr. Brian Stein said “test­ing kits, specif­i­cally test swabs, are in short sup­ply and may also drive us to change test­ing cri­te­ria.”

Last week, pa­tients at Ad­vo­cate Lutheran Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in north­west sub­ur­ban Park Ridge were be­ing screened at a new driveup coron­avirus test­ing site, if they had physi­cian ap­proval and an ap­point­ment.

But Fri­day’s news re­lease from Ad­vo­cate said such ser­vices have been put on pause. “As a health care provider and a mem­ber of our com­mu­ni­ties, we have a

“Ev­ery hos­pi­tal in this state is work­ing to set up test­ing pro­cesses, but they’re ham­strung by the lack of avail­able test­ing kits and test­ing sup­plies.” — Danny Chun, spokesman for the Illi­nois Health and Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion

re­spon­si­bil­ity to pri­or­i­tize test­ing for the most vul­ner­a­ble and save lives by tak­ing de­ci­sive ac­tion to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” the re­lease said.

The hos­pi­tal sys­tem said pa­tients with crit­i­cal coron­avirus symp­toms will be eval­u­ated and treated, but those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing non-se­vere coron­avirus symp­toms will be told to quar­an­tine them­selves at home.

“Peo­ple who show up to the emer­gency room but aren’t very sick won’t be tested,” said an Ad­vo­cate spokes­woman. “Peo­ple who are se­verely ill will get test­ing.”

STACEY WESCOTT/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Physi­cian’s as­sis­tant Peter Schorr per­forms a nasal swab Fri­day on a pa­tient at the Ed­ward-Elmhurst Health drive-thru test­ing cen­ter in War­renville.

MARK BLACK/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Al­li­son Lan­thrum and her son, El­lis, 2, self-quar­an­tine at home Fri­day in St. Charles. Lan­thrum be­lieves her son might have the new coron­avirus but can’t get him tested.

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