Worried you have COVID-19? Here are the best ways to find out

Experts: Don’t just show up at health departments, hospitals

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The daily number of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois – including in Starved Rock Country – is at an all-time high.

So, too, is the number of tests.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed, local hospitals and health departments are asking those seeking testing or suspecting they may have contracted the coronavirus to first contact their physicians or use services such as telehealth instead of showing up at health care facilities unannounced requesting a test.

“There is a flood of people trying to figure out where to go for testing,” said Janet Long, public relations manager at Morris Hospital and Healthcare. “It’s resulting in tons of phone calls and misuse of the emergency room, which should be reserved for medical emergencies, not for asymptomatic people who are seeking quick test results.

“I think people really just need to know what’s available and how it works at each place.”

That varies by community, but even with rising demand, COVID-19 testing is available across Starved Rock Country for those who have reason to be tested – or perhaps just evaluated.

Joan Fernandez of Illinois Valley Community Hospital Community Relations said a great first step for people who suspect they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 is to call IVCH’s COVID hotline, 815-780-3425.

“The easiest thing for people to do is call our hotline number [open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily], and then a nurse will guide them as to what is appropriate for that particular person,” Fernandez said.

“Right now, people sometimes will call for exposure, or their work makes them have a test even though they have no symptoms. We are really only testing people right now who have symptoms or a true exposure – more than 15 minutes, no mask, less than 6 feet away ... but every situation is a little individual.”

OSF Healthcare media relations coordinator Paul Arco recommends those who wish to be tested but are not showing symptoms should visit a community testing site, such as those being offered by appointment only, by calling 815-433-3366 on Wednesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. by the La Salle County Health Department at 717 Etna Road in Ottawa.

Those displaying symptoms can call their primary care physicians, visit OSF PromptCare or UrgentCare facilities, consult Chatbot Clare on the OSF website or call the OSF Nurse Hotline 24/7 at 833-673-5669.

“Certain conditions apply,” Arco said, “and a member of our care team will determine which type of test is most appropriate.”

Morris Hospital offers drive-up nasal-swab testing on the far southwest corner of its campus from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. A physician’s order and an appointment are required.

St. Margaret’s Hospital in Spring Valley also requires a physician’s order, with testing available 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as 8 a.m to 1 p.m. on weekends.

For patients who don’t have a physician but are exhibiting signs of an illness, the St. Margaret’s walk-in clinics at Midtown Health Center in Peru or Center for Family Health in Princeton are available. Patients will be offered a telehealth visit and, if warranted, be sent for a swab test.

A number of pharmacies are beginning to offer coronavirus testing, and the La Salle County Health Department offers additional testing beyond its weekly drive-thru.

That includes rapid testing for excluded symptomatic children who are not a close contact to a confirmed case to help get them back into school, employees who need a negative test result to return to work or anyone who is planning to travel or has traveled. Contact testing is also offered – again, by appointment only.

Additional health department testing can be found in nearby communities such as Bloomington, Pontiac or Aurora. The Illinois Department of Public Health maintains an online directory of such testing sites as well as mobile testing sites, such as the one which recently visited Streator.

Terry Madsen with the Bureau, Putnam and Marshall County Health Departments said the BPMCHD advertises testing locations regularly, but the best first step may be a simple phone call to the patient’s physician, who can better direct them where to go.

“Of course, if they think they have COVID-19,” Madsen said, “they should probably just call their doctor’s office and follow their instructions.”