FHN Issues Guidance on COVID-19

March 11, 2020 – In light of continued extensive media coverage on the spread of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), FHN is issuing guidance and providing further information on the virus as it relates to northwest Illinois.

While as yet there have not been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) in FHN's service area, cases are on the rise in the United States. FHN is fully prepared for any local patients who may be diagnosed with the virus, the testing for which is done in collaboration with the Stephenson County Health Department. Further supporting FHN preparedness, IDPH (Illinois Department of Public Health) Visitor Restrictions were implemented in December, 2019, and FHN has a Highly Infectious Disease Plan and staff trained in the care of highly infectious patients. Appropriate measures are taken at all times to protect the safety of patients, visitors and employees.

Practically speaking, the measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19 are about the same as those for seasonal influenza, as communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House Coronavirus Task Force:

  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (don't touch your face before you do either), cover your cough and sneeze, and practice social distancing as much as possible.
  • Stay home if you're sick but not in medical distress (difficulty breathing, etc.), especially if you suspect you could have the virus based on your own recent travel or interaction with others who might have potential risk.
  • To help others in your home reduce their risk, regularly clean often-used surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, faucets, and countertops. COVID-19 is a virus that is easy to kill with soap and water or a general disinfectant - bleach or other strong disinfectants are not needed.
  • If you are responsible for a daycare, school, or university, review your emergency plans, absenteeism policies, and cleaning procedures; identify strategies for alternative learning mechanisms such as on-line programs; and consider postponing or cancelling student exchange programs.
  • Businesses should review their emergency and continuity of operation plans, revisit sick leave policies, and assess worker schedule flexibility.
  • Community and faith organizations should also review emergency plans and communicate with community members if events and services are changed, postponed, or cancelled.

If you believe you might have contracted COVID-19 and are in medical distress, such as having difficulty breathing or extreme weakness, please contact your medical provider or come to the FHN Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. In order to help contain spread of COVID-19 and viruses such as influenza, if you have other less serious COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, etc.), please do not visit your provider or come to the Emergency Room. Instead, please call your provider, message him/her through MyFHN (FHN's patient portal), call the Stephenson County Health Department at 815-235-8271, or talk with a provider through FHNow, FHN's telehealth service (you do not have to be an FHN patient to use FHNow). For more information on these options to contact a medical provider and additional information about COVID-19, visit www.fhn.org/coronavirus; for more information on COVID-19 throughout the US and worldwide, visit www.coronavirus.gov.

As a final note, please be practical when planning ahead; it is unnecessary to stockpile household supplies, and hoarding items such as face masks - most of which are not effective against any type of coronavirus or flu - could create unnecessary shortages. FHN will continue to communicate quickly and continuously with any new information about COVID-19 in our area to keep the public up to date.