Coronavirus update: Patient at University of Chicago Medical Center tests negative for COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The patient being treated at the University of Chicago Medical Center for suspected coronavirus has tested negative for COVID-19, hospital staff said.

The patient was admitted Monday night. Doctors released lab results from the Illinois Department of Public Health at about 8:30 p.m.

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There are four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, with the most recent two cases being a husband and wife.

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The man is being treated at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. How he was infected is unclear, but he then spread it to his wife.

She is in isolation at home. Both are in good condition.

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"We're all conducting interviews, working with the hospital administration to identify all the potential close contacts," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Cook County public health officials, along with Governor JB Pritzker addressed the growing number of cases in the state Monday.

"We are ready to put the weight of the state behind a full-fledged response when needed and if we meet those thresholds," Governor Pritzker said.

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There are now four testing labs in Illinois preparing for an influx of samples as officials call for expanded testing of patients with flu-like symptoms.

Officials said close to 300 people in the state are actively being monitored twice a day for possible symptoms.

The first two cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, also a husband and wife, have both made a full recovery, health officials said.

The World Health Organization said COVID-19 appears to spread less efficiently than the flu, but causes more severe illness than the flu. Transmission is driven by people who are showing symptoms.

If there is a wider outbreak, the Chicago Fire Department said it is ready, equipping paramedics and other personnel with special gowns, masks, respirators and gloves.

"It's a respiratory illness, but it's droplet protection also. So you want to cover any kind of mucous membrane. Your eyes, your nose, your mouth, which is where the mask comes in and the face shield," said Chief David Ernst, CFD.

The CTA said they are maintaining a "rigorous cleaning schedule." Vehicles receive daily cleanings, including more concentrated spot cleanings as needed. Vehicles also receive regular deep cleans, which include intensive cleanings of interior and exterior surfaces.

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Rush University has launched a virtual visit portal for patients concerned they may have symptoms of COVID-19.

Those concerned that a cough could mean novel coronavirus can now talk to a doctor in minutes with the launch of the Rush Medical Center Virtual Visit Portal for COVID-19.

"When a coronavirus case came about we thought it would be good to offer the service of patients to be able to do kind of a self-triage, leverage the technology for patients to be able to access their risk for coronavirus," said Dr. Paul Casey, Rush Medical Center chief medical officer.

The hospital, which was already using its video visit platform to treat illnesses like the flu, sore throats, and other conditions, began offering diagnosis for the highly infectious virus, which has symptoms including upper respiratory infection, fever and cough.

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The process is simple: you go to the portal, answer questions about the symptoms you have, if you've had exposure to someone with COVID-19 or been to a country where they have infections. If you answer yes to all of those questions, then you have a video consult with an ER doctor.

Rush has special isolation rooms and ambulance bays, along with procedures to treat infectious diseases. The medical center was among the 35 special sites designated by the Centers for Disease Control following the Ebola outbreak of 2014.

ER physician Dr. Meeta Shah heads the virtual visit team, and said the online visits are a good first defense.

"It gives them a level of comfort as well, and convenience, while at the same time protecting the public," she said.

People deemed at risk are then given a plan to safely get them to in-person treatment.

Rush officials said they are following CDC and local health care agencies' guidance on this as they, like everyone, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

The Centers for Disease Control announced Tuesday that as of last night 60 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed nationally through local hospital systems. Testifying before Congress, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn assured lawmakers they are working as fast as possible to identify the ill, using more widespread testing than ever before.

"We should have the capacity by the end of the week to have kits available to the laboratories to perform about a million tests," Hahn said.

Seven fatalities have also been reported, all of which occurred in Washington state.

The Illinois Department of Public Health as created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.

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Scientists have found a protein in coronavirus very similar to one from a previous outbreak, which could potentially help speed up the process in developing COVID-19 treatment.

Scientists, including researchers from Illinois, at the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have found a protein in coronavirus very similar to one from a previous outbreak, which could potentially help speed up the process in developing COVID-19 treatment.

Behind the thick secured door at the laboratory is high tech equipment being used to research the coronavirus. A COVID-19 protein is being analyzed using a piece of equipment called an X-Ray Beam Line.

"It's an extremely high atomic resolution microscope, it's not one you can see visually, we have computers to recreate the images we want to see," said Bob Fischetti, Argonne Lab's Advanced Photon Source.

The structure of the COVID-19 protein is being analyzed by a team, including scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, studying infectious diseases for the National Institutes of Health. They have discovered the protein is nearly is nearly identical to one in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which had an outbreak in 2003.

"This one is 89 percent at the sequence level and structurally very similar, we need to do more analysis to see how small differences can translate into behavior," said University of Chicago researcher Karolina Mischalska.

Because the protein is so similar to the one in SARS, it can potentially provide a road map for drug companies to develop a treatment for the coronavirus.

"All those drugs that were developed for SARS could potentially be redeployed, re understood and redeveloped against this new virus, so what we need to do is pick up where previous groups left off and expedite that into new drugs," said Karla Satchel, research for Northwestern University Medicine.

Meanwhile, researchers at Argonne lab and around the world continue to analyze all the COVID-19 proteins at an urgent pace, hoping to understand their molecular make-up to stop the virus from replicating.

"We have competition which is good because that may produce the structures faster," Mischalska said.

Despite the discovery of the similar SARS protein and the urgency among researchers to find more information, scientists said they are at the earliest stages of the first step in the process. The development of a drug is realistically 18 to 24 months from now.
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