Briefly

Growing a Sense of “Us”

“The Patio is Open.” The sign in front of the bistro down the block caught me off guard this week. Are we ready for this? I have felt a dissonance between a pull to feel normal rhythms again and knowing that our battle against COVID-19 is far from over. 

My own uncertainty about the future, a possible resurgence, the stress I feel seeing folks standing too close together — it makes me reflect on the challenging spot we find ourselves in as a UW Medicine community. COVID-19, systemic racism and unrest affect us in myriad ways at home, at work and in our communities. For those of us who used to come to work to escape the challenges in the world outside and who traveled home to get a break from a hard day in our unit, lab or office — we now find that there is no escape and that the weight of what we do not have control over is heavy on our shoulders.

What we do have control over is making sure we all do our part to make sure that everyone feels welcome within UW Medicine, which can feel like a tall order in a tense and quickly changing environment. When we sense threats, our human response is often to make our sense of an “us” smaller; to constrict our circle and conserve our caring to a small few. However, in this moment, we have an opportunity to redefine our “us” to something much bigger, that encompasses every member of our community, including those whose life journeys are dramatically different from ours.

This month, I have been moved to see our collective sense of “us” grow in real time: as colleagues of all races and ethnicities marched in support of racial justice; as the young and old knelt in silence to acknowledge so many lives lost; as straight allies celebrated the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling this week affording workplace protections for LGBTQ+ workers under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Milestones like this remind us that it is possible to hold both pain and celebration in the same moment, and of what is possible when we can hold them together. They also create a chance to reflect on the ways in which legal and lived equality are not the same, and of the urgent role we are called to play in bridging the gap, to create a culture of belonging.

As I watch colleagues across UW Medicine grieve, celebrate, call for change together — across their differences — I think of what will be possible as we grow our sense of “us.” As we move through and beyond the challenges of this time, showing up for one another will be essential to dismantle the systems of oppression that affect us all — and to ensure our collective liberation. To create a culture where colleagues can live safe and openly, no matter who they are, whom they love, or what led them to become part of our community, we must proactively expand our definition of “us.”

Lessons Learned: As we move forward, we want to capture some of what we have learned over the last four months. Please spend 15 minutes taking our COVID-19 Lessons Learned Survey to help us understand how we can continue to support you now and how we can best plan for challenges in the future. 

Town Halls: We will continue to gather as a community to share information and answer your questions during our Town Halls. Our next Town Hall will be next week, June 26 at 3 pm. Our future town halls will be held monthly on July 10, August 7 and September 4.  

Peer and Mental Health Support: Many of our healthcare team members know how to be “fine” and white-knuckle their way through incredible challenges. We have been trained to be okay. Knowing how hard the stress, uncertainty and loss of control is on all of us now, we want to encourage you to seek out the supports around you. From a peer support session as you come off of service, to a free supportive conversation with our Psychiatry clinician colleagues, we are here to help. For more immediate support for yourself or a colleague, please contact our employee assistance program: UW CareLink. It is okay to acknowledge just how hard this time is and to give and receive support now and in the future.

It is on us as a community to connect across our differences and show up for each other in ways that define the inclusive “us” that we want to be moving forward. Let’s continue to do this work together.

With gratitude,

Anne Browning, PhD
Assistant Dean for Well-Being, UW School of Medicine
Founding Director, UW Resilience Lab
Affiliate Assistant Professor, UW College of Education

UW Medicine Pride Flag

COVID-19 Update June 16, 2020

Between the rain and sun, I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend. There are more stores and restaurants opening up in our region, and families are gathering in small groups to celebrate high school and college graduation events. While it is certainly nice to see some amount of normalcy return to our lives, we do still need to remind ourselves that we are not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19 and won’t be for a while. With the loosening of restrictions, our region, state and country have seen increases in COVID-19 infections. While we are nowhere near another surge, it is important for all of us to do our part to help keep the infection rate down. This means masking and physical distancing when around other people, proper hand hygiene, staying home with any symptoms and getting tested if you have symptoms of a respiratory illness. Remember, we are all in this together!

Updates for today:

  • UW Medicine COVID-19 activity summary.
  • Local, national and global epidemiology.
  • Video: Media spotlight on UW Medicine for COVID-19.
  • Employee antibody testing.
  • COVID-19 Lessons Learned Survey.
  • COVID-19 persistent symptoms.
  • COVID-19 Safety Guidance Reminder for protestors.

UW Medicine Hospitals COVID-19 Activity

COVID-19 Positive Inpatients June 16

State, National and Global Updates

Washington: The Department of Health reports 26,158 confirmed cases and 1,221 deaths as of June 14. The state has tested 471,265 people, and 5.6% have been positive.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 2,104,346 COVID-19 cases and 116,140 deaths as of June 16.  

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Situation Report for June 16 reports 7,941,791 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 434,796 deaths.

Media Spotlight on UW Medicine for COVID-19

The Strategic Marketing & Communications media relations team recently created a video highlighting UW Medicine’s local and national media coverage during the pandemic. Coverage of UW Medicine during this time has been incredible: we have appeared in more than 10,000 news stories which have reached a potential audience of 3.6 billion people, and the stories on our social channels have generated 26.8 million shares. Watch UW Medicine media relations pandemic coverage.

Phase II Antibody Testing for Employees

Almost 3,000 employees have participated in Phase I of the serology testing program and 3.3% have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. As a reminder, the program is rolling out in phases to maintain lab capacity for patient care, and your patience is greatly appreciated.

Phase II of the antibody testing will roll out this week. This phase will test employees who work in:

  • Clinical units.
  • Positions with direct patient contact.
  • Laboratories, facilities and engineering.

You will hear from your manager if you are eligible for Phase II testing. Eligible employees are given a link to a survey to check if they have any COVID-19 symptoms; if they do, they are directed to get a nasal swab test; if they do not, they are directed to a calendaring system to make an appointment for a blood draw. Employees should remember that if no times are available, they should check back the next day. Schedules become available on a rolling basis and new times open up daily.

The antibody test is offered to employees at no cost and the test results will be part of your employee health record. For more information, please see the antibody testing FAQ.

COVID-19 Lessons Learned Survey Closes June 19

UW Medicine’s Emergency Operations Center response to COVID-19 has involved everyone in our organization. As we begin our recovery, we want to hear your thoughts about what went well and what can be improved to guide our systemwide planning in the future. Please provide your feedback by taking the UW Medicine COVID-19 Lessons Learned Survey.

The survey can be completed in about 15 minutes and is designed to allow for comments on all aspects of our response to the pandemic. As a thank you for your participation, you will have an opportunity to enter a drawing for a Starbucks gift card. We will share a summary of the results with your recommendations for improving our emergency response efforts later this summer.

Please make sure to share your feedback now. The survey closes at 11:59 pm on Friday, June 19.

COVID-19 Persistent Symptoms

You might have read in the news recently about how some people with novel coronavirus remain sick for months. We, too, have seen this with some of our patients. Most people with COVID-19 recover in about two weeks, but some remain ill and in the hospital; others recover at home but feel tired, weak and even short of breath for weeks after recovering. While we still have much to learn about this infection, it is clear that it can lead to a lot of inflammation that can take time to resolve. A person with this longer duration of symptoms is likely no longer infected (or is being re-infected) with the virus, but their immune system is still activated. For some people, the symptoms may improve for a few days and then return in full force. Why this happens to some individuals and not others is unknown and, for now, there is no specific treatment aside from rest.

Protest COVID-19 Safety Guidance Reminder

One more reminder on participating in public protests: while standing up for justice is important for our communities and our patients, we need to keep COVID-19 from spreading, particularly in vulnerable populations. If you are participating in any public protest, please see our Guidance for Those Protesting During the Seattle COVID-19 Pandemic for your safety and for the health of our community.

King County is now in modified Phase 1 and Snohomish and Pierce Counties are in Phase 2. With communities reopening, many of us are ready to jump into our usual activities. Now is the time to check out what is allowed in these phases and for each of us to remember to do our part in keeping COVID-19 rates low. Stay safe and healthy.

Sincerely,

John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control Program
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine

COVID-19 News Update for June 11, 2020

Data Snapshot 

UW Medicine Hospitals: 

COVID-19 Positive Inpatients Data June 11

King County: The county reported 23 new positive cases and 0 new deaths on June 10. 

Washington: The state reported 24,624 cases and 1,190 deaths as of June 9. A total of 415,342 people have been tested and 5.9% of those tests have been positive. 

United States: The CDC reports 1,973,797 cases and 112,133 deaths as of June 10.

Global: WHO reports 7,273,958 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 413,372 deaths as of June 11.

*Numbers update frequently, please follow links for most up-to-date numbers.  

UW Medicine Research News 

JAMA: Changes in SARS-CoV-2 Positivity Rate in Outpatients in Seattle and Washington State, March 1–April 16, 2020 

Featuring: Alexander Greninger, MD, PHD, Laboratory Medicine 

The first reported case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US occurred on January 20, 2020, in Snohomish County, Washington. The University of Washington (UW) Virology Division was among the first US laboratories to test for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and since March 1, 2020, has tested samples from more than 73,000 patients. More than 90% of the samples are from the UW health system and outpatient clinics in Washington State.

 

Healio: False-negative SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR tests occur less often than previously observed 

Featuring: Dustin Long, MD, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine 

Although false-negative results from nasopharyngeal SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR tests are possible, they occur less often than previously observed, according to study results published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. 
 

UW Medicine in the News 

CNN: See someone collapse near you? It's still safe to perform CPR during the pandemic, study says 

Featuring: Michael Sayre, MD, Emergency Medicine 

“Imagine taking a walk in your neighborhood, carefully staying 6 feet apart from others to ensure social distancing. You see an elderly man collapse on the sidewalk, having a heart attack. Everything you've heard of late tells you to avoid close contact with strangers, especially the elderly, during the pandemic. Is it safe to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to try to save his life? Or are you risking being infected with the novel coronavirus or giving it to a dying man? There's an answer: It's strongly encouraged that people perform CPR or chest compressions on others during the global pandemic, according to a report published by a group of Seattle emergency room physicians in the journal Circulation.” 

 

Bloomberg: Assisted-Living Centers Get Much-Needed Virus Aid for First Time 

Featuring: Alison Roxby, MD, Allergy & Infectious Diseases 

“Assisted-living facilities received a much-needed hand from the federal government Tuesday when for the first time some were given access to aid that was previously restricted largely to nursing homes.”

 

The Seattle Times: ‘Racism is the biggest public health crisis of our time’: Health care workers of color fight twin pandemics 

Featuring: Nathan Colon, MD, Surgery; Nhi Tan, MD Nephrology 

“For the past few weeks, the United States has been wrestling through two tough conversations with itself about two pandemics — though the volume got turned way up on the one about racism — and health care workers, particularly those of color, are living in the middle of both.”

 

Romper: People Are Washing Food With Bleach To Prevent Coronavirus, CDC Report Finds 

Featuring: Vin Gupta, MD, IHME 

“Wash your hands frequently, wear a face mask, keep your distance from others, don't touch your face. Those are some pieces of advice the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given Americans to stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. Something dangerous that has not been recommended? Ingesting bleach. Yet, it's happened as a new report from the CDC found that some people have been washing their food with bleach and even gargled with it in an effort to protect themselves against COVID-19.” 

 

Today: WHO seeming asymptomatic COVID-19 spread as rare was ‘irresponsible,’ doctor says 

Featuring: Vin Gupta, MD,  IHME  

“NBC News medical contributor Dr. Vin Gupta joins the 3rd hour of TODAY via video call to talk about World Health Organization saying it is rare for asymptomatic people to spread the coronavirus. “It was an irresponsible statement,” said Dr. Gupta.”

 

The Seattle Times: How a history of racism, police brutality and a pandemic led to an 'extraordinary moment 

Featuring: Edwin Lindo, JD, Family Medicine  

“To understand the unprecedented moment we’re in, activists, organizers and scholars are looking back at its historic underpinnings, parsing the dynamics of the moment and envisioning where it might take us next.”

 

CNN Health: Coronavirus deaths are expected to go down before a sharp rise in September, model shows 

Featuring: Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, IHME 

“The US surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases as experts predicted Thursday that tens of thousands more people will get infected and die in the months ahead. Nearly 113,000 people have died from Covid-19 nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. An influential model cited by the White House issued the dire prediction, saying the US death toll could reach 169,890 by October 1, with a possible range of about 133,000 to 290,000 deaths.”

 

The Seattle Times: Thousands of Washingtonians care for loved ones with dementia. During the coronavirus pandemic, some have never felt more alone. 

Featuring: Kristoffer Rhoads, PhD, Neurology 

“Ania Maldowska-Leek used to ask her husband, David, to return the cart they borrow to bring in groceries to their apartment, but now that’s too risky. He might get lost in their Federal Way building, or he’ll forget his electronic key card and get stuck outside. He has a cellphone, but he might not remember to turn it on. So, like much of her time during the COVID-19 pandemic, she returns the cart herself, alone.”

 

Q13: Washington researchers in wait and see mode as other states report surges in COVID-19 

 Featuring: Theo Vos, MD, PhD, IHME 

“COVID-19 is resurging in parts of the US and the death rate is still baffling many researchers. The virus has killed more than 413,000 people worldwide. Now states like Arizona, Texas and California are seeing spikes in hospitalizations.” 

Tweet of the Week 

Tweet of the Week June11

COVID-19 Employee Emergency Fund

Employees with a base salary under $75,000 may request up to $1,500 for a critical, temporary and unforeseen financial hardship due to COVID-19. Grants are made possible by donations from UW colleagues and community members, and awards are contingent on the availability of funding at the time of application.

For more information or to apply please visit UW Human Resources: Working During COVID-19

COVID-19 News Update for June 9, 2020

Data Snapshot

UW Medicine Hospitals: 

COVID-19 Positive Inpatients Data June 09 

 
King County: The county reported 29 new positive cases and 3 new deaths on June 9.

Washington: The state reported 24,354 cases and 1,176 deaths as of June 8. A total of 415,054 people have been tested and 5.9% of those tests have been positive. 

United States: The CDC reports 1,956,421 cases and 110,925 deaths as of June 9.

Global: WHO reports 7,039,918 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 404,396 deaths as of June 9.

*Numbers update frequently, please follow links for most up-to-date numbers.

UW Medicine in the News 

KUOW: Physician Balances Pandemic and Activism: 'We need to think of racism as a disease' 

Featuring: Estell Williams, MD, Department of Surgery 

Photo caption: Hayden Hamilton, Family Medicine; Jennifer Hamilton, Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine 

“Thousands of nurses, doctors, and health care workers came together to protest police violence over the weekend in Seattle. One of the organizers shares what motivated her so speak out. My name is Estell Williams. I am a general surgeon at the University of Washington, where I work in emergency general surgery. The march was really to address police violence as a public health emergency. And we thought what better way to amplify that message then as healthcare workers coming together. A lot of times we don’t share all of our experiences with our white colleagues because it feels like it's a burden to try to explain it.”

 

Crosscut: The New Normal: When Your Lab Becomes a Center of Hope in a Pandemic 

Featuring: Jesse Erasmus, Fellow, Microbiology 

“Molecular virologist Dr. Jesse Erasmus is part of a team at UW Medicine developing a vaccine for COVID-19. The team works around the clock in the race to produce an effective vaccine at record speed. More typically, that work would take an average of 10 to 20 years. For Erasmus, focusing on a solution is a way of coping as the world shifts around him.”

 

The Seattle Times: With More Test Supplies on Hand, Inslee Announces Expanded Testing for New Coronavirus 

Featuring: UW Medicine, UW Virology Lab 

“The city of Seattle and the state of Washington are expanding testing for the coronavirus, the governor and mayor’s office announced Thursday. The state now has enough supplies for COVID-19 tests that it would expand testing to new populations, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday. In a news conference, Inslee said the shift marked a “significant broadening of our testing strategy” that could better detect the new coronavirus around Washington. The expansion also would allow health officials to better monitor Washington’s 39 counties as they lift restrictions on businesses and activities under his four-part reopening plan, the governor said.”

 

Patch: UW Medicine Reports Least COVID-19 Patients Since Outbreak Began 

Featuring: Lisa Brandenburg, President of UW Medicine Hospitals and Clinics 

“Friday, officials for UW Medicine confirmed that, across all of their hospitals and clinics, they were treating just 18 coronavirus patients. Some hospitals reportedly don't have any patients at all, and others just have one. Hospital leaders say it's a great sign of progress, and want to tell everyone that, if they've been afraid to seek treatment because of the pandemic, it's a good time to go out and see a doctor. ‘This is the right time to come in if you have been delaying care. We have many measures in place to keep it safe,’ said Lisa Brandenburg, President of UW Medicine Hospitals and Clinics. ‘We test all patients before surgical procedures. We test all inpatients.’”

 

Best Life: Here's Why This Popular Face Mask Alternative Isn't Really Effective 

Featuring: Paul Pottinger, MD, Allergy & Infectious Diseases 

“The CDC recommends wearing a mask made of tightly woven cotton because the fibers are less likely to let anything pass through them. Most neck gaiters are made of polyester and spandex, however, and not super tightly woven. This means that they could potentially let viral droplets through. Additionally, these materials tend to hold onto virus particles for a long period of time.”

COVID-19 ‘Lessons Learned’ Survey Is Now Open

UW Medicine’s Emergency Management response to COVID-19 has involved everyone in our organization. As we begin our recovery, we want to hear your thoughts about what went well and what can be improved to guide our systemwide planning in the future.

Please provide your feedback by taking the UW Medicine COVID-19 Lessons Learned Survey. The survey can be completed in about 15 minutes and is designed to allow for comments on all aspects of our response to the pandemic. As a thank you for your participation, you will have an opportunity to enter a drawing for a Starbucks gift card. Five lucky winners will be chosen each day!

The survey will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 19. We will share a summary of the results with your recommendations for improving our emergency response efforts later this summer.

UW Medicine Zoom Town Hall June 5 Recording

Thanks to all who were able to attend this week’s UW Medicine Zoom Town Hall and to the many of you who submitted questions.

For those who were unable to attend you can watch the Town Hall here. Please feel free to share the video. You can access all recordings and transcripts of past meetings as well as upcoming Town Hall dates and Zoom links on the Zoom Town Hall Archive. Please continue to submit your questions for our next Town Hall.

Thank you all for the outstanding care of our patients, their families and each other.

Dr. John Lynch: COVID-19 Update June 5, 2020

My message today comes again with mixed emotions. During the past week, we achieved a wonderful milestone when UW Medical Center – Northwest reported a daily census with no COVID-19 patients. This good news is coupled with having fewer than 20 COVID-19 total patients in our hospitals today. While there is no guarantee that we will not have another surge, I am grateful that we have reached this stage in our response to the pandemic.

At the same time, we have again witnessed the horrific killing of a Black man by police officers. While this event is a tragedy for all of us, I cannot imagine the toll on our Black colleagues. Now is the time, if it hasn’t happened already, to reach out and make sure your Black friends, teammates and co-workers are feeling supported. Amidst the stress of COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on the Black community, this support is especially helpful. The death of George Floyd has led to numerous protests across the U.S., including one for healthcare and public health workers happening tomorrow, Saturday, June 6, starting at Harborview Medical Center at 9 a.m. It is being organized by two UW School of Medicine faculty members, Dr. Estell Williams (Dept. of Surgery) and Edwin Lindo (Dept. of Family Medicine). Given the concern for COVID-19 and mass gatherings, we offer some guidance on how to attend protests as safely as possible below.

Today, Pierce and Snohomish counties were approved for Phase 2 re-opening and King County for a modified Phase 1 (or “1.5”). If the number of new infections over the next 2-3 weeks remains low, King County may be able to move to Phase 2. Please check out the links above to learn more about what each phase means.

UW Medicine’s Emergency Operations Center response to COVID-19 has involved everyone in our organization. As we begin our recovery, we want to hear your thoughts about what went well and what can be improved to guide our systemwide planning in the future. Please provide your feedback by taking the UW Medicine COVID-19 Lessons Learned Survey.

The survey can be completed in about 15 minutes and is designed to allow for comments on all aspects of our response to the pandemic. As a thank you for your participation, you will have an opportunity to enter a drawing for a Starbucks gift card. We will share a summary of the results with your recommendations for improving our emergency response efforts later this summer.

Updates for today:

  • UW Medicine COVID-19 activity summary
  • Local and national epidemiology
  • Travel restrictions extended to June 30
  • Employee antibody testing
  • Fall flu campaign
  • COVID-19 updates on The Huddle

UW Medicine Hospitals COVID-19 Activity

UW Medicine COVID-19 Daily Census Trend

 

State, National and Global Updates

Washington: The Department of Health reports 22,729 cases and 1,138 deaths as of June 4. Of the 383,587 people who have been tested, 5.9% have been positive.

United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1,862,656 COVID-19 cases and 108,064 deaths as of today.

Global: The WHO COVID-19 Situation Report for June 5 reports 6,535,354 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 387,155 deaths.

UW Medicine Work-Related Travel Restrictions Extended Through June 30

UW Medicine has extended the current work-related travel restrictions for all employees through June 30, 2020. This includes all travel for conferences and meetings related to professional membership societies and associations as well as meetings or gatherings related to grants.  For more information, see the travel policy announcement.

Antibody Testing for Employees

More than 1,400 employees have participated in Phase I of the serology testing program, and 2.7% have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. As a reminder, the program is rolling out in phases to maintain lab capacity for patient care, and your patience is greatly appreciated.

You will hear from your manager if you are eligible for Phase II testing, which is expected to begin in the next two weeks. Interested employees are given a link to a survey to check if they have any COVID-19 symptoms and directed to a calendaring system to make an appointment for a blood draw. If you have difficulty finding appointments at the hospital labs, our clinic-based labs have a greater availability of appointments.

The antibody test is offered to employees at no cost, and test results will be part of your employee health record. For more information, please see the antibody testing FAQ.

Fall Flu Campaign

Under the May 18 guidelines issued by Gov. Inslee that allow for the resumption of medical services, a key provision is that local hospitals maintain capacity to care for patients if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases. Looking ahead to the fall and winter, one of our goals will be to preserve capacity by avoiding an influx of flu and COVID-19 cases at the same time.

We have convened a workgroup that is meeting weekly to develop a fall flu campaign to encourage full participation by employees and patients when flu shots become available.

COVID-19 Updates on The Huddle

While I will continue to send COVID-19 email updates on a weekly basis and as needed, we are posting additional updates on The Huddle about the hospital census and COVID-19 news stories. Please check this website regularly for more information about the pandemic.

During this week of ups and downs for Seattle and the nation, we must also remember that COVID-19 is still in our community. While standing up for justice is important, we need to keep COVID-19 from spreading, particularly in vulnerable populations. If you are participating in tomorrow’s protest or any other public protest, please see our Guidance for Those Protesting During the Seattle COVID-19 Pandemic for your safety and for the health of our community.

Sincerely,

John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine

Guidance for Those Protesting During the Seattle COVID-19 Pandemic

The murder of George Floyd has once again brought the issue of racial injustice to the forefront of our nation, our state and our city. There have been calls from our community for systematic change, and many have taken to the streets in protest. Such protests are not only part of our first amendment rights, but also an opportunity, in this moment, to speak in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with those in our own workplaces who have been directly affected by racism.

We are also in the midst of a viral pandemic that is driven by social gatherings, transmitted through close contact, and associated with significant morbidity and mortality among those affected by the disease. Many of the policies developed throughout our institutions and in Washington state have focused on avoiding large group activities and unnecessary community exposures and using physical distancing as a way to prevent infections. We have made tremendous progress in limiting the spread of COVID-19, and with support of Public Health experts we have started to see portions of our local community begin to reopen. However, most people remain at risk for infection, and there are concerns for increases in transmission as policies around physical distancing change.

We want everyone who participates in the protests to recognize that by coming together there is a potential risk of acquiring COVID-19. Individuals must make the personal decision to participate in such activities taking into account risks to themselves and their close contacts if they were to develop COVID-19. We recognize and understand, however, that an individual’s desire to pursue social change, justice and equity may be balanced with their concerns about COVID-19. We support our employees who choose to protest while making the effort to keep our communities protected from COVID-19. In order to protect our staff, we have developed the following guidelines modeled on those created by Public Health – Seattle & King County to provide steps staff can take to help limit exposures and protect themselves and our community from COVID-19 while taking part in local protests. These guidelines are not intended to discourage anyone from participating in the protests but are instead to guide participation in a safe manner to the extent possible.

Recommendations:

1. If you are symptomatic or have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19:
Do not participate in community protests if you feel ill, have active respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever (or other symptoms of COVID-19), or have recently been exposed to a close contact with documented COVID-19.

2. If you are asymptomatic and plan on joining the protest:
a) Wear a mask or facial covering that fully covers your nose and mouth.
b) Strongly consider wearing or having ready access to goggles or eye protection for added protection (avoid wearing contacts).
c) Bring hand sanitizer and use frequently.
d) Avoid sharing drinks, carrying other’s signs or touching objects that others have touched.
e) Attempt to limit your group size and maintain 6 feet of physical distance whenever possible during the activity.
f) Try to avoid crowded activities that involve shouting or singing in close proximity to others and avoid those who are not wearing masks or face coverings if possible.
g) Bring your own water, food or other personal items.

3. After participating in local protests:
Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after this activity. If you develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, do not come to work, self-isolate and call Employee Health to get tested for COVID-19.

If others who participated in the protests, such as household members, close contacts or those who you had close contact with for more than 15 minutes in an enclosed space (e.g., a car) are diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you receive a call from Public Health about a possible exposure, follow recommendations for self-isolation and call Employee Health to get tested for COVID-19.

Additional FAQ’s (see more from Public Health Insider):

How can I best avoid exposures when traveling to the event?
If you participate, walking, biking or driving alone in a personal vehicle to the event are the best travel options to reduce risk of COVID-19. However, these options are not available to everyone. If you need to drive multiple people in a private vehicle or shared ride, follow the above recommendations (e.g., masking, hand hygiene, etc.) to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. If you’re using public transportation, remember to wear a face covering, enter through the back door and maintain six feet of distance between yourself and other passengers.

Do I have to self-isolate for 14 days after participating in the protests?
No. As per institutional policies, you should continue to mask (either a surgical mask or cloth face mask), practice physical distancing and use hand hygiene frequently during the day even if you remain asymptomatic. However, if you develop even mild symptoms, you should self-isolate and call Employee Health to get tested for COVID-19.

I protested with my roommate/close contact who has new respiratory symptoms, what should I do?
Assure that your household contact self-isolates at home and maintain physical distancing in your household if possible. Encourage your close contact to get tested for COVID-19 through either their workplace (e.g., University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) or any of the numerous locations in the metro area open for community testing.

I was contacted by Public Health – Seattle & King County after my roommate tested positive, what should I do?
It is important to follow the recommendations of the Public Health officer and get tested for COVID-19. Tell Employee Health about your exposure so they can help organize testing for you. If you had a household member or close contact test positive for COVID-19, Public Health and your organization may require you to self-isolate at home even if your test is negative.

I have developed new symptoms a few days after the protest, what should I do?
If you develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, do not come to work, self-isolate and call Employee Health to get tested for COVID-19.

I have heard that tear gas can increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19, is this true?
Public Health – Seattle & King County and Infectious Diseases specialists oppose the use of tear gas and other respiratory irritants based on the potential to increase COVID-19 spread. Tear gas leads to coughing and therefore increased respiratory droplets, which are thought to potentially increase the risk of transmission. Avoid situations where you might directly confront police or members of the military.

Shouting, chanting and singing are often part of protests, how can I be expected to avoid these activities?
Protesting is an individual’s right to support and speak out loud for an important cause. While not always possible to avoid, limiting such shouting/singing to times when you can maintain physical distancing and assuring you are doing so with others who are masked will help limit transmission.

Consider carrying a sign with your message and remember that your presence can be as important as your voice.

I have a chronic health condition, I am immunosuppressed or in an age range that would put me at increased risk for COVID-19, but I want to participate in the protest. Is it safe for me to do so?
In general, we recommend that those who are immunocompromised, those with conditions or in an age bracket (65+) that are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, consider other methods of supporting the cause rather than participating in the protest.

If I were to become infected could I transmit the infection to someone else at work?
While possible, institutional policies are organized to limit the chance that transmission events can happen between employees, including those who are asymptomatic. Following important policies such as masking, physical distancing, using frequent hand gel and avoiding coming to work with symptoms can help ensure that if you got infected that others in our center would be protected. It is also important to remind other members of your labs, offices and clinical teams to practice physical distancing and to wear masks. The more we all participate in these efforts, the less likely institution-based transmission will occur.

I work in the clinic/hospital, should I be even more careful?
Those who work in healthcare have a special responsibility to our patients. Institutional policies are organized to limit transmission in the clinic, even among asymptomatic individuals. Following clinic and hospital policies for universal masking, physical distancing when possible and frequent hand hygiene is critical for preventing transmission of the virus. It is critical that staff who participate in the protests monitor their symptoms for 14 days after participating and avoid coming to work if they have even mild COVID-19 symptoms. Staff who develop symptoms should contact Employee Health and get tested for COVID-19.

 

John Lynch, MD, MPH 
Medical Director, Infection Prevention 
Harborview Medical Center 
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Timothy H. Dellit, MD
Chief Medical Officer, UW Medicine
President, UW Physicians
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Chloe Bryson-Cahn, MD
Assoc. Med. Director, Infection Prevention
Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Catherine Liu, MD
Assoc. Medical Director, Infection Prevention
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Seth A. Cohen, MD, MSc
Medical Director, Infection Prevention
UWMC – Northwest Campus
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Santiago Neme, MD, MPH
Medical Director
UWMC – Northwest Campus
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Laura Evans, MD, MSc
Associate Medical Director, Critical Care
University of Washington Medical Center
Div. of Pulmonary, Critical Care, & Sleep Medicine
UW School of Medicine

Steven A Pergam, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Nandita Mani, MD
Fellow
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine


Paul S. Pottinger, MD
Head General Infectious Disease Section
University of Washington Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Reminder: UW Medicine Zoom Town Hall Today at 3 pm

Friendly reminder that today, June 5, we will be gathering remotely for a UW Medicine Zoom Town Hall at 3 pm. Please join the webinar using this Zoom link.

Today we plan to talk about the lower number of inpatients with COVID-19, results of antibody testing, the impact of reopening the community and more. Paula Houston, EdD, will also join us to answer questions about UW Medicine’s response to ongoing racialized violence and approach to anti-racism. There is still time to send us your questions.

We will record the discussion and post it on The Huddle for those who cannot attend. Please feel free to share the video. You can find recordings and transcripts of past meetings in the Zoom Town Hall Archive.

Thank you all for the outstanding care of our patients, their families and each other.