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Coronavirus

COVID-19 testing (like PPE) in short supply

Tents near the emergency entrance to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb were removed earlier this week to save testing for those priority groups.
Tents near the emergency entrance to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb were removed earlier this week to save testing for those priority groups.

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COVID-19 test kits use a nasopharyngeal procedure, where a doctor sticks a sterile 3-millimeter skinny swab up all the way up your nasal passage until it connects to your throat, where it rests for a few seconds to collect secretions.

The nasopharyngeal stick with the sample is then sent to a lab operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health or one of the few private labs operating facilities across the state with the ability to run tests.

The DeKalb County Public Health Department’s nurse practitioner, Cindy Graves, said the likelihood of a DeKalb County resident qualifying for a COVID-19 test is slim, as none are available unless approved by a licensed doctor. Like many vital tools healthcare workers need to continue to fight the viral respiratory disease that has thus far reportedly infected 17 people in the county and killed 157 in the state, COVID-19 testing kids are in short supply.

Therefore, kits are being prioritized for those who need it most: health care workers, first responders, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who develop symptoms (shortness of breath, persistent cough, fatigue, high fever).

If you call your doctor to report symptoms, they’ll walk you through a series of questions to screen whether they believe your symptoms are severe enough to qualify for testing.

They probably won’t be, Graves said.

“Most likely you will not be tested to reduce exposure to others and prioritize testing for those who need it,” Graves said. “Only go to the ER if your symptoms are severe or if directed by a provider.”

There are no testing facilities in DeKalb County that allow walk-in tests. You must call a health care provider first and they will connect you.

She said the nasopharyngeal sticks also are in short supply and, now that person-to-person spread in the state has ramped up, somewhat unnecessary.

“As we are now seeing the transmission become much more community acquired, that testing piece is starting to fall off as the guideline,” Graves said. “Testing does not change the treatment.”

When asked whether hospitals have a contingency plan in the event they become overrun with local cases or have a plan to set up more beds elsewhere, Graves said yes.

As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, all Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital employees, regardless of what position they hold, must wear a surgical mask at least while they’re working, according to new guidelines handed down by the Centers for Disease Control today, Graves said.

“Let’s talk about the beds that are there now,” she said. “Illinois hospitals, and I know ours has followed suit, they are trying not to populate their beds in the first place. Very early on, all elective surgeries were canceled, so that has freed up a lot of beds.”

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