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COVID-19: One Year Later

On Feb. 29, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including the first death in Washington state. This brought the total to 26 patients in the country.

On that same day, UW Medicine activated our Incident Command System. Despite the small number of cases, we knew that we were facing one of the most serious threats to the health of the public in our lifetime. It would only be a matter of time before widespread community transmission would disrupt our personal lives and how we care for patients.

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Incident Command System, we want to thank everyone who has participated in and supported our response to the pandemic. From the turbulent early days, which are described in 90 Days on the Front Line, to the present moment, you have made it possible for UW Medicine to take a leadership role in research and clinical care for this devastating disease.

Our achievements include a milestone reached last week when the UW Medicine Virology Lab completed its 2 millionth test for COVID-19. We were also a leader in establishing drive-up test sites and deploying drop-in teams in long-term care facilities to limit the spread of the virus, developing policies to protect patients and caregivers, finding creative ways to support faculty and staff resiliency, and providing frequent and reliable communications to more than 30,000 members of the UW Medicine community.

More recently, our Incident Command System has focused on rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines equitably and efficiently to employees, community healthcare workers and eligible patients. This effort also includes outreach strategies with mobile vans and pop-up clinics to reach vulnerable communities. For more information on the structure and scope of the Incident Command System, please see the one-year anniversary article on The Huddle.

This week, we join people across the country in observing other one-year milestones, including the tragic number of 500,000 lives lost. At the same time, we find hope in that UW Medicine has already administered more than 100,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. We are also thankful that more than 1,000 patients with COVID-19 have been discharged from our hospitals to return to their homes with restored health.

On a personal level, we know that many of you may be experiencing milestones related to your individual and family situations. At our most recent town hall, several UW Medicine leaders talked about the emotions they have experienced over the past year, ranging from feelings of loss and fears of becoming ill to the inspiration of being on the front lines of this battle. You can listen to their stories at the beginning of the Feb. 26 town hall recording, and we will hear from more leaders at our next town hall on March 12.

While this one-year anniversary does not mark the end of the pandemic, we can face the future with great confidence in our path forward because you make UW Medicine an amazing organization. Thank you for all that you have done during the pandemic and for all that you continue to do, one year later, for our patients and community.

Sincerely,

Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington

Lisa Brandenburg
President, UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics
Vice President for Medical Affairs
University of Washington

Timothy H. Dellit, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, UW Medicine
Vice President for Medical Affairs,
University of Washington, and
President, UW Physicians

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