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After Testing Hundreds For COVID-19, Urgent Care Doctor Says Many Positives Have No Symptoms: Staying Home Is ‘The Right Thing’

"You're doing the right thing by social isolation," he said. "It's science. It is working. No matter what people say. ... I am telling you, it is working."

Dr. Rahul Khare and his coworkers operate a COVID-19 testing tent outside Innovative Express Care, 2400 N. Ashland Ave.
Innovative Care Express / Provided
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LINCOLN PARK — A Chicago urgent care doctor with a background in epidemiology and disaster relief is testing hundreds of patients who believe they may have coronavirus — and he has no plans to slow down.

Dr. Rahul Khare, owner of Innovative Express Care, has personally administered around 250 COVID-19 tests. Of those tests, 28 resulted in positive cases.

Khare is testing patients from the parking lot of his Lincoln Park clinic, 2400 N. Ashland Ave. The patients are a mix of referrals from other physicians and people who passed a virtual telemedicine screening.

“I believe in testing,” Khare said.

The 28 positive cases have shown a wide range of severity of symptoms and risk factors, Khare said.

But the sample is not enough to base a “generalization” of the entire population, he said.

Some are suffering significantly, Khare said. Of the five patients who are hospitalized, one is in an Intensive Care Unit.

Those five, however, suffered from “co-morbidities,” or conditions that put them at a higher risk.

One patient had Rheumatoid Arthritis while another had Addison’s Disease. A third was a cancer survivor undergoing chemotherapy.

Some patients who tested positive for COVID-19 exhibited the obvious symptoms of a cough and fever. About half of the 28 cases, however, surprised Khare.

In other words, they involved asymptomatic patients or patients who did not exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. His youngest positive patient, an 8-year-old child, had mild symptoms.

“My guess is there’s a lot more positives than we think,” Khare said. “The good news is they’re recovering really well. The bad news is they’re giving it to a lot of people.”

He urged Chicagoans to continue heeding the statewide stay-at-home order.

“You’re doing the right thing by social isolation,” he said. “It’s science. It is working. No matter what people say. … I am telling you, it is working.”  

‘This is what I’m made to do’

At a time when hospitals across the United States are clamoring for testing supplies and PPE (“personal protection equipment”), how, exactly, can one doctor in Lincoln Park provide hundreds of tests per week?

He prepared.

“I knew this was coming three weeks ago,” Khare said. “When I saw China going down quickly [I acted] so I could have enough of the tests to help our community.”

Weeks before Gov. JB Pritzker closed schools and ordered people not to dine out or drink at bars, Khare swiftly placed large orders of tubes and swabs, the supplies needed to perform the actual tests.

Credit: Innovative Care Express / Provided
Dr. Rahul Khare is the founder of Innovate Express Care, 2400 N. Ashland Ave.

He ordered goggles and boxes of N95 masks for his staff. He transitioned his team from in-person patient care to telemedicine COVID-19 screening.

Knowing he would eventually need to self-isolate, Khare booked an AirBnb across the street from his practice. He has been living there since March 16.

He is hopeful that he won’t need to self-isolate for longer than a month, as he misses his wife, 15-year-old son and 12-year-old twins.

“It’s hard, but I’m so busy,” he said. “I’m having a great time doing what I love doing, knowing it’s for a short amount of time and I’ll be back with my family shortly.”

The doctor said his background in disaster relief emergency medicine helped him prepare for COVID-19’s toll on Chicago.

In 2010 Khare went to Haiti after the country’s devastating earthquake. In 2015 he helped out in the Philippines following a typhoon.

“To me this is home,” he said. “It’s like, this is what I’m made to do.”

Khare said he has also been served by his background in epidemiology.

He has a master’s degree in clinical investigation from Northwestern University. In 2003 he wrote a paper about SARS and the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine.

“Since H191 we haven’t had anything this big,” he said, of COVID-19.

Besides an operation at Northwestern Hospital, Khare said he was not aware of other large-scale Chicago testing efforts open to the public. He hopes that changes.

To schedule an appointment for a telemedicine consultation, go to Innovative Express Care’s website. The cost of a telemedicine visit is $100.

Symptoms

Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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