Evanston health care professionals weigh in on COVID-19 prevention


Evanstonian Editorial Board

NorthShore University HealthSystem in Skokie on April 2.

Sari Oppenheimer, Staff Writer

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has tallied 6,980 cases in Illinois, including 89 cases in Evanston as of Thursday morning, according to the City of Evanston website. Evanston has experienced the impacts of coronavirus city-wide, including in the health care community.

Evanston’s health care community consists of two hospitals, urgent care facilities, private practices and NorthShore University HealthSystem offices. Every branch of these health care systems is taking measures to ensure the health and safety of doctors, nurses, staff members and patients. 

“It has markedly changed the way that we practice medicine and pediatrics,” Dr. Sharon Robinson, a pediatric physician with NorthShore University HealthSystem, said. “We are only seeing infants in the office right now for checkups, because they need their immunizations… and we have implemented a telemedicine platform so that we’re doing a lot of our visits or electronic visits or via the telephone or video chat.”

Ensuring the health and safety of everyone is the goal of healthcare professionals, which at this time means finding solutions to problems in every aspect of the health care community. For some practices, this means moving to telemedicine to continue to see patients without having them come into an office, following the advice of officials at the CDC. 

“We are practicing social distancing. We’re trying to minimize the number of patients in the clinic at any given time taking their temperatures as soon as they get here,” Ida Joyce Sia, nurse manager at the ETHS Health Center said. 

Beyond finding innovative solutions to traditionally in-person doctors appointments, health care systems have been faced with the issue of ensuring the safety of their workers with proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Across the country, hospital and health care communities are dealing with an extreme shortage of PPE including N95 masks and other essential equipment used when treating patients, especially those with respiratory symptoms. 

“We have a very small amount of surgical masks that we have to use very judiciously,” Dr. Robinson said. 

Coronavirus has affected everyone by different means, including students at ETHS. One of the health care services that is available to ETHS students upon registration is the ETHS Health Center in partnership with NorthShore University HealthSystem. While the building is closed to students and staff, the health center is remaining open in order to provide care for students that need it. 

“The most important thing we’re doing is staying open even if the school is closed, because we’re the primary doctor for a lot of ETHS kids. So, we’re there as a resource either by phone or telemedicine or in person for any questions anyone might have,” Dr. Aimee Crow, the medical director of the ETHS Health Center said. “We are not seeing or treating COVID-19 patients at the Health Center, but we’re helping to get those patients to where they need to be, to either be evaluated or treated.”

In addition to finding solutions to taking care of patients’ physical health, the health care system is also working to provide services for mental health related illnesses. The Evanston Public Library currently offers social work services. The Evanston health care community is continually working to provide a variety of healthcare services to local residents. 

“People’s other health needs don’t go away during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’re there for everything else,” Dr. Crow said. “In addition to physicals, sick visits and reproductive health, we can also provide mental health support.” 

COVID-19 is a rapidly changing situation, but health care workers throughout the city are working to help keep people safe and healthy, despite the current health crisis. 

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is key in keeping everyone healthy. You can do your part to prevent the spread of coronavirus by staying home and only leaving when essential, and practicing proper social distancing when outside. The CDC advises washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, and avoiding large gatherings and crowded places. If you feel sick or believe that you may have coronavirus, avoid interacting with others except to receive medical care. For more information about COVID-19 and actions you can do to protect yourself and others, please visit the State of Illinois website, the CDC, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois information page or the City of Evanston information page.