Not surprisingly, COVID-19 could close health centers in low-income areas

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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Hundreds of health care facilities in the state serving low-income and minority communities face financial chaos after canceling most routine doctor visits in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s according to an industry organization’s report. The internal financial review completed Wednesday for the Illinois Primary Health Care Association found, without help, the state’s federally-established community health centers face losses of $181 million and 4,350 layoffs in the next three months.

There are 51 community health centers operating in 390 facilities. According to the review, nearly 40% of the centers, required to provide care regardless of ability to pay and serving in low-income regions, would have to close their doors.

Jordan Powell, the group’s president and CEO, said if facilities had sufficient PPE such as masks and gloves, in urgent demand nationwide, they could be key COVID-19 testing sites.

“This isn’t a temporary problem,” Powell said. “This pandemic will only increase the number of unemployed and uninsured in communities served by health centers. When this crisis is over, community health centers… will be in greater demand.”

For more people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough which clear up in 2 – 3 weeks. However, for some, especially older adults and those with health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia or death. 19 people in the state have died among 1,865 infected.

Advocates hoped a proposed $2 trillion stimulus package would include $3.2 billion for community health centers, but it provides less: $1.32 billion. An earlier package signed March 6 provided $100 million for the centers, but it’s spread thin nationally and its distribution was just announced Wednesday, with $3.6 million set aside for Illinois.

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