March 23, 2022
RE: Preparing for Subsequent Surges of SARS-CoV-2 Infections and COVID-19 Illness
The number of Illinoisans being infected with SARS-CoV-2 and those hospitalized or suffering other adverse outcomes related to COVID-19 has sharply decreased since January 2022. As of March 17, 2022, COVID-19 community levels were low in every county in Illinois. Unfortunately, the prospect of new variants of concern, the potential seasonality of transmission, and underlying social and medical vulnerabilities increase the likelihood that we will experience future waves of morbidity and mortality. To ensure the state is prepared for the next surge of COVID-19, we ask that our hospital and congregate living partners have updated emergency plans in place now.
In the event of a surge, a well-developed emergency plan would:
• Ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), including procedural masks and NIOSH-approved respirators, are readily available (at least a 10- week supply)
• Ensure adequate testing supplies are readily available
• Include a method to anticipate/calculate daily PPE usage or burn rates and significant changes that may occur related to a surge
• Ensure compliance with infection control procedures including updated staff trainings
• Ensure compliance with reporting requirements
• Ensure expedited access to therapeutics for both staff and patients
Hospitals, specifically, should continue to engage in preparedness activities as part of the regional healthcare coalitions. Also, to accommodate for an influx of patients, hospitals should plan for how they will bring on additional staff, cross-train existing healthcare staff, adjust scheduled procedures, and utilize existing and nontraditional spaces for patient care.
Congregate living facilities should also have an identified partner (LTC pharmacy or retail pharmacy) who can supply them with COVID-19 therapeutics in an expedited timeframe in order to be effective in treating Covid-19, given that many treatments need to be administered within 5 days of symptom onset.
Health care facilities should establish and maintain relationships with proven laboratories to support COVID-19 testing of their patients and staff. The end of federal funding for COVID-19 testing for patients without health insurance means there may be fewer free testing providers in the private market. Facilities should make plans to support COVID-19 testing through their traditional programs for uninsured patients. Free at-home COVID-19 tests for uninsured patients are available at community health centers or Medicare-certified health clinics. Uninsured patients may also order free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government at https://special.usps.com/testkits. Individuals with employer-sponsored or Marketplace health insurance are also eligible for as many as eight at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests per month at no cost.
We encourage our partners to take full advantage of any remaining federal resources available when preparing for future surges. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact the Illinois Department of Public Health at DPH.SICK@illinois.gov. Thank you for your critical work on the behalf of every resident of Illinois. We are in this together.
Amaal V.E. Tokars
Illinois Department of Public Health