Skip to Content

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, May 15, 2020 8:00 AM

This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and NorthShore will provide updated information as it becomes available.

We continue to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, loss or decrease of smell or taste, muscle aches with flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, chills or shaking chills, headache, diarrhea, nausea or other gastrointestinal symptoms OR had contact with a person confirmed with COVID-19 infection OR had contact with a person under investigation (someone who has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results), contact our community health hotline at 847.432.5849 or begin an E-Visit through NorthShoreConnect.

Read our frequently asked questions to learn more about NorthShore's response to COVID-19.

NorthShore University HealthSystem is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and we are prepared to handle the current situation through enhanced clinical and operational capabilities. We are continually updating our clinical and safety practices to ensure that all of our patients, visitors, staff and the communities we serve receive effective and protected care. The following is a list of frequently asked questions that are beneficial to our valued patients, visitors to our hospitals, Immediate Care sites and Medical Group offices, as well as NorthShore employees.

COVID-19 General Questions

What is the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is a new virus that causes a respiratory viral syndrome that can range from a mild cold to severe pneumonia. A comprehensive list of symptoms is above.

Is there more than one type of coronavirus?
Yes, there are 7 kinds of coronavirus, including the one that causes the common cold. Other coronaviruses include SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and COVID-19.

How is COVID-19 spread?
It’s believed to spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to influenza and other respiratory infections.

Where has COVID-19 spread?
Due to the rapidly changing nature of COVID-19, please visit Illinois Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or World Health Organization websites for the latest on the number of confirmed cases and related information in our communities, the United States, and globally.

Is there a vaccine?
Currently, there is not a vaccine for COVID-19.

What does “contact tracing” mean?
Contact tracing is used to identify persons who may have had contact with an infected person or with a person who exhibited no symptoms at the time of contact but later developed fever and/or respiratory issues. Our public health colleagues collect this and other information about these contacts, then test or treat infected individuals, and trace their contacts in turn. This process aims to contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, population, etc.

How can I participate in a COVID vaccine trial?
NorthShore University HealthSystem is not participating in any COVID-19 vaccine trials at this time.

Do I need to wear a mask to protect myself?
We require everyone to wear a cloth face covering (mask) upon entering all of our clinical locations. If you do not have a mask, one will be provided. All essential visitors will also be required to wear a mask. We also recommend wearing a mask in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies) and especially in areas of significant community spread. In fact, several surrounding communities require that you wear a mask in public. The mask is not a replacement for social distancing (remaining at least six feet from other people) but rather something to use in addition to social distancing and other key preventive measures, such as frequent hand hygiene.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 symptoms?
People with COVID-19 infection typically have one or more of the following symptoms: fever, cough, congestion, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, loss or decrease of smell or taste, muscle aches with flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, chills or shaking chills, headache, diarrhea, nausea or other gastrointestinal symptoms OR had contact with a person confirmed with COVID-19 infection OR had contact with a person under investigation (someone who has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results). If you have any of these symptoms and are over 60 years old or have chronic diseases or your immune system is weak, you may be at higher risk for a severe COVID-19 infection. Not all patients with these symptoms or risk factors need COVID-19 testing. If you feel you have COVID-19 symptoms you should:

  1. Call your physician first but please be patient. There may be some delays due to the number of people calling. 
  2. Contact our community health hotline at 847.432.5849 (847.HEALTH9) and listen to the choices to guide you to the information you are looking for.
  3. If you’re a NorthShoreConnect user, you may schedule an e-visit.

If your symptoms are worsening or you think you need emergency services, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Should everyone with symptoms that could be due to COVID-19 be evaluated and tested?
As testing has become more available and there is clear evidence of community-spread, we have expanded our testing capabilities. Symptomatic individuals who are being prioritized for testing include hospitalized or critically ill patients; individuals in congregate living settings that may be part of a potential cluster of COVID-19; outpatients who are involved in frontline COVID-19 response (healthcare workers in hospitals or congregate living settings and public safety workers). If you are otherwise healthy with symptoms of fever or respiratory symptoms, please stay home, practice social distancing and use supportive care. Supportive care includes rest, fluids, using fever-reducing medications, and practicing social distancing. If you have other questions, please call our community health hotline at 847.432.5849 (847.HEALTH9) or schedule an e-visit.

I hear NorthShore has its own COVID-19 test. Can I be tested to see if I have COVID-19?
We are only providing testing to those patients who meet the CDC and IDPH criteria for testing—which is testing appropriate symptomatic individuals (people with symptoms). We are not routinely testing asymptomatic individuals (people with no symptoms).

If I test positive for COVID-19 and am then cleared of it, will I get it again?
Most similar diseases result in immunity, but there is not enough evidence yet to determine if recovery from COVID-19 guarantees immunity from future infection.

How much will it cost to get tested for COVID-19?
Testing at NorthShore University HealthSystem will come at no cost to patients. Uninsured will be offered free testing and follow up care will be managed through our financial assistance and charity program.  Those who are insured will not be responsible for any out-of-pocket costs related to being tested for COVID-19.

Government regulations require NorthShore to list “cash price” associated with COVID testing as follows:

  • COVID rapid test: $116
  • COVID High Throughput test: $230
  • Office Visit: $177-$371
  • ER visit: $875-$1,595
  • Flu test: $264
  • Chest X-Ray: $441

How many of your in-house COVID-19 tests can your lab process in one day?
We have the capacity to process 1,500 patient tests per day compared to 400 per day when we first launched our test on March 12. We’re looking to increase our testing capacity further. Daily test volumes depend heavily on the pandemic’s fluid and evolving nature. Our results continue to be available in under two days.

NorthShore Readiness

Are NorthShore’s hospitals reporting a spike in COVID-19 positive cases?
NorthShore is currently experiencing a downward trend in COVID-19-positive patients who need to be hospitalized, which is encouraging news. However, our inpatient census could increase due to the pandemic’s fluid and evolving nature. We continue to monitor and are prepared in the event there is a spike in COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization, especially since Illinois now expects cases to peak during mid-June. The IDPH coronavirus site is updated frequently and includes figures on the number of cases in Illinois.

How prepared is NorthShore to handle current and future patient demand?
NorthShore has a coordinated plan in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been the case since January when we established a group of clinical, administrative and operational leaders to proactively prepare and implement detailed action plans system-wide. This cross-functional team has met and continues to meet daily and reviews the systems, supplies, people, and communication aspects of the pandemic to inform our readiness planning and activities.

We currently have inpatient and Intensive Care Unit capacity, and if and when necessary, broaden capacity to include converting additional clinical areas at our hospitals into enhanced COVID-19 isolation units to accommodate a patient surge.

We’ve also established COVID-19 enhanced Immediate Care Centers in Gurnee, Lake Bluff, Niles and Skokie; activated E-visits through our NorthShoreConnect patient portal; created a drive-through testing site in Skokie for eligible patients; and addressed patient concerns through our 847.432.5849 (847.HEALTH9) community health phone line.

Is NorthShore able to provide appropriate care for non-COVID-19 patients?
NorthShore has preparedness plans in place to ensure members of our community who have non-COVID-19 conditions are treated and cared for with the same high standards that the community has come to trust from NorthShore. We have expanded other types of access points to support the practice of social distancing such as phone visits, E-Visits and video visits.

What about adequate access to NorthShore’s Emergency Departments for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients?
As a result of our COVID-19 preparedness, NorthShore has been able to successfully keep our Emergency Departments (ED) from becoming flooded with patients. In fact, our ED volume is down from its historic figures, which is encouraging news.

Due to the pandemic, is NorthShore “prioritizing” care based on a patient’s age, health history or odds of potentially not recovering from COVID-19?
During these challenging times, please know that we are working diligently and tirelessly to provide safe, effective and protective care for all our patients, employees and the communities we serve. Our dedicated COVID-19 medical teams are caring for each individual patient to determine the best course of treatment given their symptoms and health history.

NorthShore’s Designated COVID-19 Hospital

Is it true that Glenbrook Hospital is NorthShore’s COVID-designated hospital for inpatients?
On April, 1, 2020, Glenbrook Hospital was temporarily converted into our fever and respiratory infection hospital where we are admitting patients with likely COVID-19 infection. As needed, we also are admitting these patients to Evanston Hospital depending on the volume and capacity at Glenbrook.

Why was Glenbrook Hospital chosen as the system’s COVID-designated hospital?
When we began our system-wide preparation and response efforts, we selected Glenbrook to be our COVID-dedicated hospital because of its physical configuration and capacity to adjust the airflow in large portions of the building to most safely accommodate patients critically ill with COVID-19.

Is Glenbrook Hospital operationally prepared to serve as a COVID-19 hospital?
Glenbrook is fully prepared to care for COVID-19 inpatients. We have worked extensively to convert and expand clinical areas—including our Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Emergency Department and an inpatient unit—into whole-unit negative pressure environments which are best for the sickest patients being treated for COVID-19.

What is a negative pressure room or environment?
A negative pressure/airflow environment is an isolation measure used in hospitals to prevent cross-contamination from room to room of any airborne potential contaminants, such as coughs or sneezes. Negative pressure rooms achieve this through a HVAC system which is sensitive to the direction of air flow. Eliminating the recirculation of potential contaminated room air and paying close attention to the direction of air flow creates a safer environment for our caregivers and for everyone in our hospitals.

If I don’t have COVID-19 symptoms but a different health concern that requires emergency attention, can I still come to the Emergency Department?
Yes. The Glenbrook Emergency Department is available to treat the wide range of clinical conditions as usual.

Is the COVID action plan at Glenbrook Hospital permanent?
Glenbrook Hospital’s clinical capabilities will remain in place for future needs should we experience another event of this magnitude. However, once the current pandemic passes, Glenbrook will return to its usual function and services.

What is NorthShore’s action plan to identify COVID-19 patients for inpatient status?
Our dedicated COVID-19 medical team first determines if a case should be admitted under our COVID action plan. If the patient is deemed COVID-eligible for inpatient care, appropriate steps are taken to ensure a seamless and safe transition to the appropriate hospital. Our in-house testing capabilities allow us to determine in a timely way whether COVID-19 is the cause of the patient’s respiratory infection.

Is there a visitor restriction policy at Glenbrook now that it’s the COVID-dedicated hospital?
We understand your concern about wanting to be with loved ones during this challenging time. NorthShore has implemented a visitor restriction policy. This action is being taken for the health, safety and well-being of our patients and staff. Please read our current visitor policy information letter. Additionally, to help patients and their loved ones connect, we encourage the use of phone-based video capabilities such as FaceTime and What’s App.

NorthShore Patient Plan

Is NorthShore screening everyone for possible fever or respiratory symptoms or COVID risk factors upon arrival to your hospitals?  
Yes, everyone is being screened including employees. Screening includes questions about symptoms, travel and contact exposure history. 

  • If your temperature is 100 degrees or higher or the answer to any of our screening questions demonstrates that you are at risk for COVID-19 infection, we will not allow you in our acute care pavilions.
  • Please refer to the “What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 symptoms” above.

Is NorthShore allowing family or friends come to visit loved ones who are hospitalized?
NorthShore has implemented a visitor restriction policy. We are making rare exceptions on a case by case basis. Any visitor allowed into our pavilions will have to pass our screening assessment. Please read our current visitor policy information letter.  

What if a hospitalized patient (COVID or non-COVID) is nearing end of life, are loved ones allowed to visit?
We define this as an extenuating circumstance and have developed a policy and procedure to allow one screened family member of a loved one to visit the patient for about 20 minutes. Our care team will speak with you about the necessary steps to take in this very difficult circumstance. Please read our current visitor policy information letter.  

If I’m not an established NorthShore patient and/or not active on NorthShoreConnect, and I test positive for COVID-19 while in your Emergency Department, who can provide me with a letter to my employer?
You will need to contact your doctor and provide a copy of the discharge guidance documents that the Emergency Department provides when you leave. Then, please ask your primary care physician, or PCP, to write a letter that outlines the appropriate advice based on how you are doing. If you do not have a PCP, then you will need to contact your Employee Health representative at your place of employment and provide the discharge documents that you received from NorthShore.

I tested positive for COVID-19 several days ago. How long will it be before the Illinois Department of Public Health contacts me?
Unfortunately, we are unable to answer your question. It is best that you contact the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) directly.

I run a business and an employee tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do?
It is best to contact your local department of public health. You may also call your city hall or village hall and request to be connected directly with someone in their public health department.

NorthShore Resuming Non-Emergency Surgical and Elective Procedures

Per Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s recent order allowing hospitals to resume services delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now re-opening care for non-emergency surgical and elective procedures. In doing so, we want you to know that our facilities and practices are safe and open for business. We have instituted federal, state and best practice health guidelines for the safety and well-being of our care teams and patients. Please refer to the following frequently asked questions.

When will NorthShore resume non-emergency surgical and elective procedures?
We have a comprehensive plan in place to safely begin surgical and elective procedures on Monday, May 11. This action is in line with Governor Pritzker’s order.

Will all elective surgeries, procedures and testing resume immediately?
We are unable to resume all cases at once. Our clinical, operational and administrative teams are recommending a week-to-week evaluation of our patients’ needs. This will allow us to have stronger safeguards in place for both our patients and staff.

Which hospitals are being designated for elective cases?
Evanston Hospital, Highland Park Hospital and Skokie Hospital.

Will I undergo a COVID-19 test before my elective case?
All patients will be tested for COVID-19 before undergoing surgical and elective procedures that are performed in an operating room or procedure area.

Is it safe for me to have my surgery or procedure at a NorthShore hospital?
Yes. We understand your concerns about possible exposure to the virus and take them very seriously. Please be assured that NorthShore has robust screening processes and infection prevention protocols in place to make sure our patients receive quality and safe care.

Given that NorthShore operates as an integrated health system, we are able to ensure we continue to care for patients with COVID-19 at specific, designated sites, while non-COVID-19 expert teams care for the health needs of non-COVID-19 patients at separate sites.

How will I be notified about my scheduled surgery?
Your surgeon or interventional procedure physician, or a member of their team, will contact you directly to schedule your surgery or procedure. If you wish to reach us, please contact your physician to inquire about getting your surgery or procedure scheduled.

What do I need to do to prepare for my surgery or procedure once it’s scheduled?
Your surgeon or interventional procedure physician, or a member of their team, will give you detailed instructions specific to you and your condition to prepare for a safe surgery or procedure. You will be tested for COVID-19 as part of your pre-surgery preparation.

Will I be able to bring family and friends with me on the day of my surgery or procedure?
We ask that each patient arrive alone on the day of their surgery or procedure, if possible. This is to keep all our patients and team members safe. If you need a companion to assist with your check in, only one visitor per patient will be allowed. For the duration of procedures, the visitor may be asked to wait in their vehicle. Our staff will notify them to return and pick you up when your procedure is completed. For the visitor to enter our facility, they will need to wear a mask and pass our screening process. A member of our team will review instructions with you prior to your surgery or procedure.

NorthShore In-Office and Telehealth Visits and Lab Work for Non-Covid-19 Patients

Per Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s recent order allowing hospitals to resume services delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now re-opening care for testing procedures, outpatient services and physician office appointments. In doing so, we want you to know that our facilities and practices are safe and open for business. We have instituted federal, state and best practice health guidelines for the safety and well-being of our care teams and patients. Please refer to the following frequently asked questions.

How is NorthShore handling ALL doctor’s appointments for patients who don’t need surgery and don’t have COVID-19?
You may call your doctor’s office or visit NorthShoreConnect to schedule an appointment. You will be asked a series of screening questions about symptoms and contact exposure history.

Following the screening, your physician and care team will coordinate next steps, including determining whether an in-person or telehealth (video-enabled device) visit is most appropriate for your needs. Your physician and care team may also refer you to one of our Immediate Care Centers for further evaluation of your symptoms. If an appointment is scheduled, you will also be asked to monitor for any symptoms and to contact your doctor’s office if you develop symptoms prior to your appointment.

Should I wear a face covering to my appointment?
Yes. If you do not have one, we will provide you with a mask.

What should I expect when I arrive for my appointment?
You will undergo our screening assessment before entering the doctor’s office. If you do not pass the screening, our staff will contact your doctor to determine next steps. You will be required to wear a mask during your visit. The mask must cover your mouth and nose.

Am I allowed to bring visitors to my appointment?
For the health and safety of all of our patients and staff, please plan on attending your visit without a visitor. However, if you need someone to accompany you, they must undergo our screening assessment before coming into the office. If they do not pass the screening, they will not be allowed to accompany you and will be asked to wait in their vehicle. If they pass the screening, they must wear a mask while accompanying you and practice social distancing in our waiting room.

What about parents or guardians of minor age children (under age 18)?
If you are a parent or guardian of a minor, you will undergo our screening assessment before entering the doctor’s office. If you do not pass the screening, our staff will contact your child’s doctor to determine next steps. If you pass the screening, then you must wear a mask while accompanying your child.

What if I need to have a test performed, such as a Mammogram, MRI, X-ray or a blood draw?
Upon arrival, you will be required to wear a mask and will be screened for symptoms and exposures.

Is it safe to wait for my appointment in the office waiting area?
For everyone’s protection, we ask all patients and visitors to socially distance in the waiting rooms. All chairs are positioned six feet apart and everyone is required to wear a mask. In our physician offices, please arrange with the front desk if you prefer to wait in your vehicle.

What else is NorthShore doing to promote social distancing in the office?
For most appointments, patients on NorthShoreConnect can eCheck-in 48 hours prior to their appointment. Additionally, if you have the NorthShoreConnect Mobile App on your smartphone and “Appointment Arrival” enabled in settings, you can notify us when you arrive for your visit. This technology promotes a contactless check-in and arrival experience and/or greatly reduces the time you need to spend at the front desk of the office.

NorthShore Medical and Pharmaceutical Supply

Do you have enough medical supplies?
Yes. We are managing our supplies very carefully and sensibly for the protection of our patients and employees, given the worldwide shortages.

Can I buy supplies like masks and gloves at the hospitals?
We do not have supplies for purchase at any NorthShore site.

If I walk in to a NorthShore facility, can I get some supplies for my family?
No. Our current supplies are for staff use only while caring for patients.

Does NorthShore have adequate supplies of medication?
We are not experiencing a shortage of prescription medications. Our pharmacy staff are in contact with our vendors to ensure adequate supplies and are monitoring medication availability for any changes.

Donations from the Community

I would like to make a donation to NorthShore to help support the fight against COVID-19. How do I make a contribution?
NorthShore is appreciative and grateful for the outpouring of support from our community. We are currently accepting financial contributions through a special COVID-19 Response Fund. Click here to make a contribution. We are also accepting donations of select, critical supplies. Learn more about the supplies we need and the process to donate.

I would like to donate food to NorthShore employees. How do I make a food donation?
We are also happy to accept food donations for our staff.  Learn more about the process to donate food.

I have supplies that I would like to donate to NorthShore. How do I make that donation?
We are currently accepting select, critical supplies. Learn more about the supplies we need and the process to donate. Thank you for your generosity.

Tips for Everyone to Stay Healthy

What can I do to protect my health and safety?
There are several things we can all do to remain safe, healthy and vigilant.

  • Clean your hands often. Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use sanitizer when washing is not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you do, please wash your hands.
  • Practice social distancing: 6 feet of distance between people. This means keep space between you and others in public spaces.
  • Avoid contact with people who seem ill.
  • Avoid social gatherings where social distancing cannot be practiced. Use technology such as FaceTime/video communication to keep in touch with loved ones.
  • Please remember that social distancing is essential.
  • Stay home if you are sick. Do not return to work until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever without taking fever-reducing medications.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with tissue or in the crook of your arm; throw away used tissue and wash your hands.

Where to Get Updated Information

Where can I find more information about coronavirus?
You may also access additional information from the following sites: