Even as the federal government struggles both to test Americans and develop coherent messaging about the risks and severity of COVID-19, or, the coronavirus, local healthcare officials have been publishing details about potential symptoms and recommendations for both seeking medical care and navigating public spaces.
Howard Brown Health Medical Director Cori Blum, MD, said that is important for people to speak with a healthcare provider about their symptoms prior to visiting an emergency department or doctor's officewhere they could potentially transmit the infection to other patients, providers or staff.
"If people have a primary-care provider, that would be the most appropriate person to call," said Blum. "If they don't have a primary care provider, they are welcome to call Howard Brown, at our main number, and speak to nurse who can give them guidance."
Blum also noted that those in the City of Chicago can phone Chicago Department of Public Health with initial concerns.
"If they don't have a specific way to get this triage information, then they can also call the city's hotline," she said. "What we're doing with the phone triage is trying to sort out, 'Is this a person with severe respiratory illness, which would require more care, or testing for coronavirus?' In that case, we would make sure that they got the care they need. If someone was not having severe symptoms, had a mild illness or an illness that could be managed at home, then we would rather have folks with mild illness or respiratory symptoms stay away from large gatherings or public places."
On March 12, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced directives mandating cancellation of public events with over 1,000 participants and recommending cancellation for events with over 250 persons, among other precautions.
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and severe fatigue. Persons with those symptoms should contact a provider especially if they've traveled someplace impacted by COVID-19, or have been in contact with someone who has the virus or traveled to an affected area or region. Seniors, persons with compromised immune systems and respiratory problems should be especially cautious about coronavirus.
An open letter from more than 100 organizations published March 11 remarked that the LGBT population is inherently vulnerable in the face of COVID-19 for myriad reasons, among them higher rates of tobacco use; higher rates of HIV and cancer; and higher rates of having experienced discrimination from healthcare providers, which ultimately lead to more fraught relationships with medical personnel. That latter problem is especially an issue for LGBT seniors. Howard Brown Health was among the signatories of the March 11 letter.
Her organization is one of several providers that have formed a coalition to form a strong local response to COVID-19. Howard Brown Health also has protocols in place should an unknowing client present with coronavirus symptoms and require transfer to an emergency department for testing.
"We are in communication with other health systems and Chicago Department of Public Health to make sure that we're up to date on the latest information, so that we can provide as much care and protection as we can for our community," Blum said.
Chicago Department of Public Health's information line is 312-746-4835.
The City of Chicago's COVID-19 resource page is at https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/cdph/provdrs/health_protection_and_response/svcs/2019-novel-coronavirus2019-ncov-.html.
Howard Brown Health's COVID-19 FAQ is at https://howardbrown.org/coronavirus-faq/.
The open letter from LGBT-rights organizations is at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Open-letter-about-Coronavirus-and-the-LGBTQ-communities/68136.html .