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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Updates from Advocate Aurora Health

As Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout our country and communities, we are focused on providing care while maintaining safe facilities for our team members and visitors.

We continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state health agencies including urging our communities to help slow the spread of the disease through adoption of proven public health strategies like hand-washing and social distancing. If you think you've been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing a fever and cough, stay home and call your doctor or our 24-hour hotline at 1-866-443-2584. We'll help you get the care you need. If you think you're experiencing an emergency, dial 911.

Please find below updates on this rapidly evolving situation.

Statement on Capital and Construction Projects
April 1, 2020

Given the uncertainty and changing dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic, capital projects across the entire Advocate Aurora Health system are being re-evaluated and routine capital expenditures halted as a result of the significant increased operating expenses and lost revenues. We are focused on battling COVID-19 and have directed capital and operating investments to achieve this objective.

During this time of re-evaluation, construction projects continue with the exception of renovation work in existing hospital facilities to prevent the spread of infection. Where construction work is ongoing, we have instructed general contractors to ensure workers practice social distancing. We have also left decision-making to general contractors if they want to pause projects.

Statement on No-Visitor Policy
Updated April 1, 2020

To stem the spread of COVID-19 and help keep our patients, visitors and team members safe, Advocate Aurora Health implemented a no-visitor policy beginning March 16, 2020:

No visitors, with a few exceptions, will be allowed in any inpatient areas until further notice. All visitors who meet exclusion criteria must pass a health screening, which will be administered at a central hospital checkpoint.

Exclusion criteria includes:

  • Pediatric caregivers (1)
  • Companion of laboring mother (1) and if applicable one midwife/doula
  • End of life situations (number of visitors determined on a case-by-case basis)
  • Emergency Department companion (1)
  • Outpatient area companion (1)
  • In-person discharge instructions (1)
  • Professionals assigned to assist with procedures (1)

All potential visitors are being screened at a central hospital checkpoint, even if they are not in the exception category, including delivery personnel. All visitors who meet the above criteria must pass a health screening to enter the facility.

Statement on Food Donation Guidelines
March 31, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, our team members on the front lines are working tirelessly to provide compassionate, safe and quality care. Advocate Aurora Health has received many inquiries from generous individuals and local businesses about how to help feed our nurses, doctors and team members.

Food donations will be accepted at our hospitals but must follow these guidelines:

  • Food must be individually packaged
  • Food must be donated from a restaurant/caterer/food company that is monitored by local health inspectors and has passed a health inspection in the last 12 months.
  • No homemade food
  • Beverages must be in single serve packages
  • All flatware needs to be individually wrapped
  • All condiments need to be in portion control packets

If you want to donate, call our dedicated call center number at 877-787-2111. A representative will help you facilitate your donation. If you have donations of bulk prepacked food items (such as pallets of water or individually wrapped protein bars) email to COVIDAAHSupplyDonations@aurora.org.
Details for all the ways to give can be found at Advocate Charitable Foundation COVID-19 and Aurora Health Care Foundation COVID-19.

Thank you for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

Statement on Universal Masking
March 30, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the communities we serve, we continuously evaluate and adjust our protocols as needs evolve and the situation on our frontlines change. Effective March 31, we are implementing a universal masking policy requiring all team members at our hospital sites to wear a fabric mask on our acute care campuses.

This is a precautionary measure intended to better protect each other and our patients while conserving our personal protective equipment (PPE) supply for medical use. It's important to note that universal masking is not designed to protect team members from exposure to others who are sick; but instead is intended to protect others from possible exposure from the person wearing the mask. Universal masks contain the wearer's respiratory droplets, helping to prevent them from landing on surfaces (such as computers or desks) or other people.

While we await more supply of fabric masks, procedural masks may be used and will be distributed to team members at Advocate Aurora hospitals at team member screening check points. When providing direct clinical care for a patient in airborne, droplet, or special respiratory precautions, team members have been instructed not to wear their allocated mask and instead follow PPE guidelines developed by our infection prevention specialists in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Conservation of PPE is critical to keep our team members protected as COVID-19 levels are expected to continue to surge in the coming days and weeks. Our supply chain team continues to focus relentlessly on securing additional PPE through reliable sources. Advocate Aurora PPE guidelines are consistent with CDC guidelines.

Statement on Team Members Impacted by COVID-19
March 27, 2020

We are grateful for the unwavering commitment of our team members during this public health crisis. Our approach to supporting team members who need to be away from work continues to evolve as the crisis unfolds. The care of our team members is always top of mind, and we've made available several resources and introduced new programs, including an enhanced PTO policy, childcare partnerships and spiritual care services, to support them during these challenging times.

The safety of our patients and team members is our top priority, and we have strong infection prevention protocols in place in line with CDC guidelines to protect our team members. If a team member in any of our facilities is diagnosed with COVID-19 or is exposed, we follow CDC guidance for health care workers, including quarantining. We continue to reinforce strong infection prevention measures, including screening all visitors and team members upon entry to our sites of care.

Statement on Emergency Department Overflow Tents
March 26, 2020

Emergency Department Overflow Tents are being set up at all hospitals across the Advocate Aurora footprint. They are part of proactive preparations for a surge of volume in patients who present to the ED with mild COVID symptoms. These are not testing locations. The tents allow for greater protection of our team members and patients by separating suspected COVID patients and not bringing them into the main hospital unless they require further treatment after their screening. The tents also help us efficiently conserve personal protective equipment as they are designed in a way so that staffing is kept to a minimum.

People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or those who have been exposed to someone who has it should visit our Resource Center for guidance.

Statement on Supply Chain and Personal Protective Equipment
Updated March 26, 2020

For the health and safety of our team members and patients, we have updated our personal protective equipment (PPE) standards to help conserve supplies as we test and care for patients with COVID-19. Amid the challenges nationwide with PPE shortages, we have supply to meet our current needs but expect the demand will increase significantly. We continue to work diligently to secure additional supplies from all available sources. While supply chain PPE closets may appear low, PPE is being delivered to sites when they need it to conserve and manage use. As a result, team members may not see the same level of supplies that they are accustomed to seeing. We are also forging direct partnerships with manufacturers, including one that will soon result in production of our own face shields.

Statement on COVID-19 Testing
Updated March 26, 2020

There continues to be a national shortage of COVID-19 test kits and the materials needed to process them. As a result, state officials, the Illinois Hospital Association and the Wisconsin Hospital Association have all shared testing protocols intended to conserve tests for those in critical need. As a health care provider and a member of our communities, we have a responsibility to prioritize testing for the most vulnerable and save lives by taking decisive action to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In order to ensure we are best prepared to meet the escalating needs of our patients and team members and in accordance with guidelines, people experiencing non–severe COVID-19 symptoms will be given guidance on how to self–quarantine at home. People presenting to our hospitals with severe COVID-19 symptoms will be evaluated and, if deemed appropriate, tested and treated.

Our thoughts are with all patients who are dealing with the uncertainties of this disease. Those previously tested may have added frustrations due to long wait times for results given the backlog at many labs. Just this week, we stood up the ability to process our own tests to turn around faster results.

Statement of Dr. Raul Mendoza, Pulmonologist at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, on Wisconsin Gov. Evers' 'Safer at Home' Order:
March 24, 2020

The governor is sending a clear message to Wisconsinites that they need to do their part to help stem the spread of the virus. People who embrace social distancing don't just make themselves safer. They make their relatives and neighbors safer, and importantly, help doctors and nurses across the state at a time when we need all the help we can get.

Statement on Team Member Screening
March 24, 2020

To help protect our patients and team members, Advocate Aurora Health has begun COVID-19 screening for all team members, physicians and contractors at the start of every shift in alignment with CDC and state guidelines. Designated staff conducts the screening in appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Team members with a fever of over 100°F are required to go home immediately and are contacted by our Employee Health team with follow–up guidance.

Statement on Extended Restrictions on Elective Surgeries and Procedures
March 24, 2020

For the health and safety of our teams and patients, effective immediately, we are extending existing restrictions on elective surgeries/procedures and non–urgent ambulatory visits through Friday, April 10. We will reassess the need to extend restrictions beyond April 10 on a weekly basis.

Statement on COVID-19 Test Processing
March 23, 2020

Beginning today, ACL Laboratories, which is part of Advocate Aurora Health, is processing COVID-19 tests for those who meet testing criteria in the following populations: ED patients authorized for inpatient admission; inpatients; and team members authorized for testing by Employee Health. We expect to be able to process at least 400 tests daily with results back in fewer than 24 hours for these populations. Please note, the lab is not a testing site and its capabilities are reserved for processing, not administering, tests.

Statement on Accepting Donations for Supplies
March 23, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, we are committed to keeping our heroes – our doctors, nurses and team members – safe. As you know, the broader health care community is at risk of running low on critical personal protective equipment (PPE) across the country. Health care workers need these essential safety items on the frontline of this pandemic to effectively provide care. We are currently accepting the following items:

  • Masks – Both N95 and procedural masks will be accepted. These masks can be found across many industries and have been deemed appropriate to use in the health care setting by the CDC. Commonly found in the construction and landscaping industries among others, we will gladly accept any new and unused masks.*
  • Hand sanitizer – Personal-sized hand sanitizer that has been unopened. CDC guidelines encourage sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol composition.
  • Eye protection – This includes any new or unused goggles, safety glasses or face shields.
  • Disinfectant wipes – All brands of unopened premoistened wipes are being accepted.

If you have questions or are unsure if your item qualifies please contact COVIDAAHSupplyDonations@aurora.org. Drop off items at your local Advocate Aurora Health hospital at the shipping and receiving dock. Thank you for playing an important part in keeping our team members and community safe.

*IMPORTANT: At this point, we are not accepting handmade masks. However, the situation is changing daily so if you are willing to sew masks please email COVIDAAHSupplyDonations@aurora.org and provide your contact information. If we find ourselves in a situation where we do need an additional supply, we will be in touch.

Manufacturers Willing to Help: If you are a local or national manufacturer looking to support your health care providers, Advocate Aurora Health sincerely appreciates your partnership in keeping our communities and team members safe. Please email Brian.Barnum@advocatehealth.com any ideas you have for assistance, and we will let you know how you can help. Thank you in advance for your support!

Statement on Relief Fund for Critical Care
March 20, 2020

Advocate Aurora Health's foundations launched a Relief Fund for Critical Care which will be used exclusively to provide additional resources to patients, families and communities, and to further support the physicians, nurses and team members who are working tirelessly amid the COVID-19 crisis. More information can be found here: Illinois or Wisconsin.

Statement on New Offering to Screen for COVID-19
March 20, 2020

Launched yesterday, our new online COVID-19 Symptom Checker is a convenient way for patients to find the care they need. By answering a few simple questions, they'll quickly know what they need to do next – from seeing a provider 24/7 with a video visit to contacting their doctor. This will help reduce the extremely high demand our call centers are experiencing. Check it out.

Statement on Maintaining Routine Care with Scheduled Video Visits
March 20, 2020

To continue to meet our patients' and communities' everyday health care needs, our physicians are utilizing telephone and video visits to provide low acuity routine and follow-up care. This allows us to continue to accommodate appointments for non-urgent issues such as minor illnesses, injuries, follow-ups and other issues while removing any risk for potential COVID-19 exposure for patients and our teams.

Statement on COVID-19 Testing
March 20, 2020

There continues to be a national shortage of COVID-19 test kits and the materials needed to process them. As a result, state officials, the Illinois Hospital Association and the Wisconsin Hospital Association have all shared new testing protocols intended to conserve tests for those in critical need. As a health care provider and a member of our communities, we have a responsibility to prioritize testing for the most vulnerable and save lives by taking decisive action to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In order to ensure we are best prepared to meet the escalating needs of our patients and team members, Advocate Aurora Health is pausing our COVID-19 testing sites and are postponing the opening of new ones at this time. In accordance with guidelines, people experiencing non-severe COVID-19 symptoms will be given guidance on how to self-quarantine at home. People presenting to our hospitals with critical COVID-19 symptoms will be evaluated and treated. We are committed to seeking creative ways to partner and secure more tests. In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to build emergency department triage units.

We also launched a COVID-19 Symptom Checker to provide additional screening options. Those can be accessed via our LiveWell app or at our online resource center at aah.org/covid-19.

Statement on CEO Address to Team Members
March 18, 2020

Advocate Aurora Health CEO Jim Skogsbergh on Wednesday addressed team members in both Illinois and Wisconsin via webcast, thanking them for their "unwavering commitment to care for our patients."

Following is a brief excerpt from his remarks:

"Never before have the words, 'health care is a team sport' rang truer…

Your care and concern for our patients and for each other have been phenomenal. We're being tested. And thus far, you are responding with: 'How can I help? What work needs to be done? Where do you need me?' – a true reveal of your and our collective character.

At the same time, I want to acknowledge the fear, anxiety and concern that is out there. We know this situation will end, but not quickly. And probably not without greater stress and strain on our resources…

For now, it is all hands on deck taking care of the patients we're so privileged to serve and taking care of each other, which you're doing an amazing job at."

Advocate Aurora Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Stuck also offered remarks.

"Safety is our first priority for our patients and our team members. And at this historic time of this pandemic, never has safety been more important. We want you to know that in every decision this team is making, safety is our number one concern."

Statement on Supply Chain and Personal Protective Equipment
March 18, 2020

For the health and safety of our team members and patients, we have updated our personal protective equipment (PPE) standards to help conserve supplies as we test and care for patients with COVID-19. This includes re-use of certain supplies, like N95 masks and eye protection, in line with CDC guidance. Supplies are limited across the United States, and we are closely monitoring the situation. We have the necessary supplies for now, but this is relative to the demand, which we know will increase significantly. We continue to encourage people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has it to stay home and call their doctor or our 24-hour hotline at 1-866-443-2584.

Statement on Lab Testing
March 18, 2020

ACL Laboratories, which is part of Advocate Aurora Health, is in the process of finishing testing validation and training for COVID-19 testing. Once operational, ACL Laboratories will be able to perform at least 400 tests daily with results back in fewer than 24 hours.

Statement on Testing Sites
March 18, 2020

To help keep our patients and communities safe, efforts are underway to expand testing and to prepare for increases in patient volume across our system.

People should not go to testing sites unless they have been explicitly instructed to do so by an Advocate Aurora Health physician. If you feel that you might need testing, call 1-866-443-2584.

To protect patient privacy and team member safety, media is prohibited from filming or photographing testing sites.

Statement on Limiting Gatherings of 10 People or Greater
March 18, 2020

To help stem the spread of the virus, federal guidelines have been updated directing people to avoid hosting gatherings of 10 people or greater. As a result, we will be following that guidance as an organization.

Our public safety team has been instructed to enforce this directive.

Statement on COVID-19 Phishing Scams
March 17, 2020

Please use heightened caution with email, as cybercriminals are posing as legitimate organizations in their attempts to obtain sensitive information during the COVID-19 situation. Be on the lookout for phishing emails that look like information or warnings about coronavirus, and do not click links or open attachments in those messages.

Statement on Closing of Gift/Flower Shops
March 17, 2020

All hospital and flower shops are closed.

Statement on Outpatient Appointments and Elective Surgeries/Procedures
Updated March 17, 2020

In response to COVID-19, we're limiting nonurgent outpatient appointments and certain elective surgeries/procedures for the health and safety of our patients and team members. If you have a non-urgent appointment or elective surgery/procedure scheduled in the next few weeks, your physician will determine the best approach. Outpatient appointments may be done via video visit, over the phone or may be rescheduled. Elective surgeries/procedures are being assessed on a case-by-case basis and may be rescheduled. Your physician's office will contact you if there is a change to your scheduled appointment, surgery or procedure. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. Please contact your physician if you have any questions.

Statement on COVID-19 Hotline and Virtual Visits
March 16, 2020

We have launched a dedicated hotline that patients can call so we can help triage care, better manage patient flow and prevent exposure.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has it, call your doctor or our COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-443-2584 to speak with one of our team members, who will ask about your symptoms and determine the best way to proceed with care, which can include:

  • Referring you to a virtual visit for further screening via our LiveWell app
  • Directing you to one of our temporary testing sites at one of our campus locations
  • Assisting in scheduling an appointment with a physician

Statement on Dining Room Closings
March 16, 2020

Effective today, all dining rooms across Advocate Aurora Health care sites will be closed to promote social distancing. We will have prepared meals and packaged goods in to-go containers for purchase.

Statement from Gary Stuck, DO, FAAFP, Chief Medical Officer, Advocate Aurora Health
March 14, 2020

As Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to spread, so does anxiety in our communities. People have concerns and questions about what they should do, and we want to provide some clear advice.

If you think you've been exposed to COVID-19 or have a fever and cough, first call your doctor who will provide further instruction over the phone.

In Illinois, if you meet the criteria to be screened for COVID-19, your physician will obtain a testing authorization number from your local health department and instruct you to go to your nearest emergency department for screening. In Wisconsin, COVID-19 screening is provided with a doctor's order.

It's critical that our communities follow this guidance to help prevent the overcrowding of emergency departments and stem the spread to others including health care workers.

In addition, it's also important to follow these guidelines to protect yourself and others:

  • If you are sick, please stay home except to seek medical attention.
  • Limit contact with others, and don't go to big public events.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Your health and safety is our biggest concern, and we want to ensure you know the important steps to take if you are sick to protect yourself, your family and others.

Statement on Organizational Efforts Regarding COVID-19
March 13, 2020

The latest on Advocate Aurora Health's COVID-19 efforts:

  • We continue to educate and update our team members on the latest guidance from the CDC and state health agencies to keep themselves and patients safe.
  • We have launched www.aah.org/coronavirus to keep our patients and communities informed. Our daily health and wellness newsletter also includes guidance and resources.
  • We have held simulation exercises for treating COVID-19 patients, have plans in place to address increased patient volume and have implemented visitor restrictions.
  • We are accelerating virtual health offerings including expanding to 24/7 availability.
  • Signage about symptoms and travel history has been placed in patient and visitor areas.
  • We have introduced additional cleaning and sanitizing across our facilities as an added layer of safety and precaution.
  • We will be serving pre-packaged food in our cafeterias and retail areas and eliminating self-service salad, deli, soup and cereal bars among other food safety precautions.
  • We have cancelled all business travel outside of Illinois and Wisconsin through May 31 for our team members.
  • We have mandated all non-designated team members work from home beginning March 16 through March 31. This includes those not directly involved in delivering or supporting clinical care.
  • All large events and meetings are being postponed or cancelled.
  • We are encouraging use of technology versus in-person meetings whenever possible.

Statement on Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital
March 12, 2020

Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital is piloting a temporary drive-up testing center for patients who have been authorized by the local health department to undergo COVID-19 screening. This outpatient screening is only for patients with mild symptoms who do not require hospital evaluation and through their physician have been assigned a testing authorization number from their local health department. We continue to look for ways to best meet the needs of our community while providing the safest environment for our patients, visitors and team members.

People with symptoms such as cough and fever or believe they have been exposed to COVID-19, should call their physician for guidance. Once they have an authorization number, they can then schedule an outpatient test at Good Shepherd's ambulance bay. After the test, patients are instructed to self-quarantine at home until their physician communicates the test results.