We in northwest Illinois are in our third week of taking strict precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and you are probably “settling into” the stay-at-home life. Hopefully, you and your family are enjoying this extra time together.

As we’re finding out, regular life goes on, even when things seem to be turned upside-down. It is spring allergy season, so quite a few people are dealing with symptoms including sneezing, coughing, and even fevers.

If you are experiencing symptoms that you feel could be COVID-19, we have a free online symptom checker at FHN.org. It’s easy to use, and will ask about your symptoms and, if they indicate you could have COVID-19, will instruct you to contact your health care provider. (The tool does not replace a provider visit.)

You’ll find this free tool on the front page of our website, fhn.org. Click on the red “Free COVID-19 Screening Tool” link, and follow the instructions.

If the screening tool directs you to contact your health care provider, please call your provider’s office. Please do not go to any Emergency Department expecting to be tested unless in medical distress.

If you are enrolled in FHN's online information portal MyFHN, you can use the "message" capability to send a message directly to your FHN provider about your symptoms. He or she may ask you to call their office and talk to a nurse.

Anyone, including people who are not FHN patients, can also use FHNow, FHN's telemedicine service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers do not need to have an FHN provider, and can speak face-to-face with a health care provider via videoconference on phones, tablets, or laptop computers. It's fast and easy to sign up – visit fhn.org/FHNow for instructions and more information. (An online visit with FHNow is $59: More information is online.)

Drive-Through Testing

The national shortage of COVID-19 tests has not been resolved, so we still have a limited number of appointments for drive-through COVID-19 testing in the FHN Memorial Hospital parking lot in Freeport.

The testing is by appointment only and must be scheduled in advance; individuals without appointments who arrive at the site will be asked to return only after an appointment has been scheduled through the testing scheduling number, 815-599-6412. This screening hotline is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each weekday.

Callers will be screened, which means you’ll be asked questions about any current symptoms, recent travel, and interactions with others, as well as determining if you may be at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 as outlined below. Answers to these screening questions will determine if callers meet testing criteria and will provide direction for the next course of action, which may include testing at FHN’s mobile location.

People with fever and/or signs of lower respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath (not symptoms of a typical cold or upper respiratory condition) and meet any of the below criteria may be tested:

• Any person, including health care workers, who has had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset

• A history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset (currently China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, parts of Europe, and Japan)

• The individual is from a congregate living or health care facility (staff and/or patient/resident) with clusters of infection not due to influenza and suspected to be due to COVID-19

• The patient is at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 and for whom rapid test results are more likely to impact clinical care/outcomes (adults age 65 years and older, people with chronic medical conditions and/or an immunocompromised state that may put them at higher risk for poor outcomes

• Other persons who have been evaluated by a medical professional and are deemed high priority, including hospitalized patients with unexplained pneumonia.

Please note that calling the screening hotline does not guarantee you will be tested. If you aren’t experiencing symptoms, please leave the line open for others who may need to be tested.

The COVID-19 test is a nasopharyngeal specimen swab, sometimes referred to as an NP swab or test. A long swab is inserted deep into the nasal cavity, often around 3 inches beyond where the nose attaches to the rest of the head, until the patient coughs.

Thank You!

We think it’s still very important to thank the people who keep us all going, like the stock people and cashiers at grocery stores, the crew keeping the drive-through and take-out food coming from local restaurants, first responders, mailmen and women, delivery drivers, and the clerk at the gas station.

Please join us by downloading and displaying a thank-you heart from fhn.org/thankyouheart. Decorate it however you’d like, and fill in who you’re thankful for. Share a photo of your thank-you heart with us, and we’ll share it on FHN’s Facebook page – we are proud to be #NWILThanks!

All of this information is up-to-date and correct as of early this week. You can always see the latest information on COVID-19, including a weekly video update from FHN President and CEO Mark Gridley, online at fhn.org/coronavirus.