March 2020 - COVID-19 Special Edition
Letter from the CEO
Dear Cook County Health Friends and Partners,
While Cook County Health has been preparing for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) since January, our efforts to make plans to care for infected patients and the work to mitigate community spread increased substantially over the past few weeks.

On Monday, March 16, CCH put policies in place in order to protect the health and safety of our patients and our staff. Some of the m easures include:

  • Visitor restrictions
  • Reducing the number of entrances to be able to more closely monitor those entering our facilities
  • Screening patients and providing masks
  • Using technology for routine visits
  • Reducing some services such as elective surgical cases

You can find more information about the steps we are taking below.

I am incredibly proud of the work being done by CCH staff as we join local, federal and global health care organizations in the fight against COVID-19. Our staff at Stroger and Provident Hospitals, our clinics, correctional health and the public health department have been working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of those we serve. I appreciate everyone’s hard work and commitment to our patients .

While these are uncertain times, I am confident our staff will continue to rise to the occasion .

Along with health system updates, this newsletter will include the information about COVID-19 that you need, such as how to stay healthy, what to do if you get sick, and ways you can find and give help during this time. What we know from past experience is that social distancing, proper hand hygiene and common sense are critical

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 requires all of us to work together. This situation is ever-changing and we encourage you to follow our social media channels on Facebook (@Cookcountyhhs), Twitter (@CookCtyHealth), and Instagram (@cookcountyhealth), and our website .

Debra D. Carey
Interim CEO
COVID-19 Information
COVID-19 has been categorized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. It is a respiratory illness that can be spread from person-to-person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China

About 80 percent of COVID-19 cases result in mild symptoms, including fever, cough and occasionally shortness of breath. People with mild cases are expected to recover without issue, and some may not be aware they are ever sick.

Every health care system in the U.S. is being challenged to respond to this pandemic and to work to control community spread. Cook County Health has developed a plan to reduce exposure risk and has outlined treatment plans for individuals who contract the virus

The Cook County Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been educating the public through the media about how the virus is spread, precautions residents should take and what is being done to slow the spread of the virus.

For the latest updates on COVID-19 in Cook County, visit CCDPH's website . 
What to Do if You Think You May Have COVID-19

 Reported illnesses for COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Senior citizens and individuals with pre-existing conditions are at a higher risk of contracting the disease .

The following symptoms may appear  2-14 days after exposure:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms, contact your primary care doctor for instructions. If you don’t have a primary care provider, call your nearest emergency room or public health department for guidance. Do not go to an emergency department unless it is an emergency, such as you have:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face
Protecting Communities

 Cook County Health is working tirelessly to prevent further spread of COVID-19, but it is critical that everyone does their part .

Protect Yourself
The best way to prevent contracting COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus .
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you’ve been in a public place or after blowing your nose or coughing.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Protect Your Community
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing.

Follow the Law
On March 20, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order, which began at 5 p.m. on March 21 and will continue through April 7. The action calls for Illinois residents to stay home as much as possible. Read more here .

Social Distancing Guidelines
The CDC has encouraged Americans to practice “Social Distancing,” which is a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. Currently, the recommendation is not to gather in groups larger than 10 people.

With COVID-19, the goal of social distancing is to slow the outbreak and to reduce the burden on health care systems and workers. This has been described as "flattening the curve," which generally refers to the potential success of social distancing measures to prevent surges in illness that could overwhelm health care systems.

Practicing social distancing means avoiding public gatherings and maintaining a distance of six feet from others.
Visitor Restrictions and Campus Updates
To protect our patients and staff, Cook County Health will no longer be allowing visitors to inpatients at our hospitals. Exceptions that will be made on a case-by-case basis with the approval of hospital administration.

We ask individuals who are not sick and do not need to see a doctor to please stay home.

All patients and approved visitors who come to any CCH location will be provided a mask and screened as they enter.

In addition, to assist with patient screenings, we will be limiting access points to the hospital and professional building.

Please access the campus through these open entrances:

Stroger Hospital
  • Main campus parking garage
  • Stroger Entrance 2
  • Emergency department entrance (for emergency or trauma only)

Professional Building
  • Polk Street entrance

Valet Service at Stroger Hospital and the professional building will be suspended until further notice. The self-pay parking lot on the north side of Stroger Hospital will be open.

Provident Hospital
  • Main entrance
  • Emergency Department entrance
Clinic and Appointment Updates
Donation and Giving Back Information
Many people have asked how they can help Cook County Health team members on the front lines who are combating COVID-19.

  • The Cook County Health Foundation has set up a coronavirus fund which will be used to provide additional resources to our patients, families and communities. For more information and to donate, click here.

  • As COVID-19 continues to impact the communities we serve, we are committed to keeping staff safe. Because there is a nationwide shortage of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) across the country, we are currently accepting the following items:
  1. 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 industry among others, we will gladly accept any new and unused masks.
  2. Hand sanitizer – Personal sized hand sanitizer that has been unopened. CDC guidelines encourage sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol composition.
  3. Eye protection – This includes any new or unused goggles, safety glasses or face shields.
  4. Disinfectant wipes – All brands of unopened pre-moistened wipes are accepted.

If you have questions or are unsure if your item qualifies, please contact  Dan Ruiz, Supply
Fresh Food Trucks Update
For the safety and well-being of everyone in the communities we serve, Cook County Health will not be holding its fresh truck food distribution on Thursday, March 26 at Oak Forest. We will continue to assess and see when we can resume food distribution. Please visit our website for information about the status of future dates.

Resources are still available for those in need through the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository for more information.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is also offering assistance for people who need help with eligibility information, applying or re-certifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid benefits. Call 773-843-5416 with questions. You can also apply online with the Department of Human Services at .
Donate Blood
Looking for ways to help? Due to canceled drives, there is a severe blood shortage nationally. The Illinois Medical District will hold a drive every weekday from now until the end of March. The American Red Cross Chicago Chapter building is at 2200 W. Harrison St., Chicago. Drives are held 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Donating blood is a safe process. The Red Cross is following all proper protocol. Eligible and healthy donors are strongly encouraged to make an appointment soon, but please postpone your donation for 28 days following travel to any area with widespread COVID-19 cases, or if you’ve been diagnosed with or have had contact with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

For more information or to find a blood drive near you, visit
Cook County Health Community Events Updates
To protect the health and safety our staff and the communities we serve, Cook County Health has canceled any community events. This includes the Cook County Health Foundation Associate Board Trivia Night.

The Community Forums on Medicaid and Substance Use Disorder in suburban Cook County are also canceled. We value your input and would still like to hear from you. Organizations and individuals can submit written feedback or set up a 20-30 minute phone call with Cook County Health staff. Please contact Christie Edwards at or 312-864-4446 if you have any questions or to schedule a phone call. We're asking organizations to submit written feedback by Monday, April 6 , using the attached letter as a guide.

The Harm Reduction Coalition has provided COVID-19 resources .
Online Resources for COVID-19 Updates
COVID-19 is a rapidly changing, global health issue. Accessing the latest information is critical to understanding. We recommend the following organizations:

  • Cook County Department of Public Health

COVID-19 Questions?

Cook County Department of Public Health (suburban Cook County residents)
  • Call 708-633-3319 
  • Email
  • Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday
  • Sign up for AlertCook, Cook County's text alert system. Text "AlertCook" to 888-777.

Illinois Department of Public Health

Chicago Department of Public Health (City of Chicago residents)
Cook County Health in the News
Cook County Health physicians have been educating the public through the media about how the virus is spread, precautions residents should take and what is being done to ensure minimal spread .
March 12, 2020 – ABC 7 Chicago
Dr. Sharon Welbel  talks about what makes COVID-19 a pandemic .

March 5, 2020 – NBC News
Dr. Terry Mason , Chief Operating Officer, Cook County Department of Public Health, discusses recovery from COVID-19.

March 4, 2020 – WGN Chicago
Dr. Rachel Rubin discusses the COVID-19 testing process and threshold.

February 28, 2020 – CBS 2 Chicago
Dr. Kiran Joshi stresses the risk of contracting coronavirus remains low.
Visit our website at
If you would like to invite a representative from CCH to attend a community event, please send an email to .
To provide feedback on CCH Community News, update your contact information, or unsubscribe, please email Marcelino Garcia, Director of Community Affairs, at .