A physician at Mt. Sinai Hospital tested positive for COVID-19 on March 20, four days after they were sent home after developing symptoms. The Sinai Health System isn’t releasing the name or any other identifying information. 

In a statement to the media, officials with the health system said that they are tracking down patients and hospital staff members “to notify them and coordinate any appropriate testing for potential COVID-19 infection.” The hospital system is also trying to identify staff members and other employees who had contact with the doctor. 

Sinai Health officials said that after the infected doctor developed symptoms, the person was evaluated by Mt. Sinai’s employee health department and sent home on March 16. Official said that during their shift, the infected doctor and other staffers “followed proper procedures for use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize potential exposure for both staff and patients.” 

In addition to the infected doctor at Mt. Sinai in North Lawndale, four patients at Marquette Park’s Holy Cross Hospital, another Sinai Health System hospital, tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the first patient came in for treatment on March 20 and was sent home to self-isolate. Three other patients came in earlier last week, but their test results didn’t come back until March 20. 

On March 16, all hospitals within the Sinai Health System implemented visitor restrictions. Visitors were no longer allowed in most inpatient and outpatient areas. Anyone with “with flu-like symptoms or respiratory illness” was automatically prohibited from entering facilities, and those who don’t show those symptoms must go through a screening that includes checking their travel history, whether they’ve been to any gathering with more than 50 people or have been in contact with anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Visitors who answer yes to any of these questions will be will be sent home or referred to the Emergency Department for further evaluation,” the hospital system’s guideline states. “We will also be collecting contact information for all visitors for any necessary follow-up.”

The hospitals also closed their cafeterias’ dining rooms and emergency room warming centers. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) , a coronavirus similar to SARS. On March 20, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-in-place order in an effort to reduce the rate of infection, so that hospitals like Mt. Sinai don’t become overwhelmed before more test kits, medical equipment and safety gear can be secured and disseminated. 

As of March 22, Illinois Department of Public Health officials counted nine coronavirus-related deaths and 1,049 cases of coronavirus across the state. Nearly half, or 519, of those confirmed cases were in Chicago and 286 in suburban Cook County. 

Austin man dies of COVID-19 at West Suburban in Oak Park 

An Austin man has died from complications related to COVID-19, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Timothy Loving, 59, of Austin, was pronounced dead at 6:07 a.m. on March 17, at West Suburban Medical Center, 3 Erie St. in Oak Park.  

In a report released March 21, the medical examiner ruled that Loving died from respiratory failure related to COVID-19. Loving also had underlying medical issues, such as diabetes and chronic substance abuse. 

Loving’s death happened a few weeks after West Suburban’s parent company, Pipeline Health, decided to trim the workforce at the Oak Park hospital and another hospital it owns — Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood — according to previous Wednesday Journal reporting. 

“The reductions were necessitated by the state of Illinois being months behind in paying Medicaid funding owed to hospitals,” Natalie Bauer Luce, West Suburban’s public relations representative, said in a statement last week. 

Luce said the state owes the hospitals $15 million in Medicaid funds. 

“The failure to pay hospitals serving large numbers of Medicaid patients has severely strained the hospitals, frankly, at exactly the time hospitals need the state’s support and funding the most,” she said, adding that the company doesn’t believe the costs will affect the hospitals’ ability to treat patients and is still looking to hire more nurses. 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...