Recent headlines can be unsettling, especially when we are feeling bombarded by similar reports from multiple sources with forecasts for a surge of COVID-19 infections in late fall and winter. Although the data shows that cases are rising in King County and the rest of the United States, I hope there’s some reassurance in the fact that at UW Medicine we are positioned well to face an escalation of patients who need our help. We are reviewing every type of information available, every day, to continue monitoring the rapidly evolving situation and to ensure our hospitals and clinics are prepared. It is also important to realize that, throughout this pandemic, we have never closed down the UW Medicine Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This team has continued to meet multiple times per week since the first week of March.
Other preparatory work includes closely tracking inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies to meet the needs of our staff and patients, data tracking and reporting, access to employee and employee household testing (over 9,000 employee tests far), policy updates, improving processes for self-attestation, communications, coordination of patient “load-leveling” across the state, and more efficient exposure response and contact tracing. At some point, I look forward to listing all of the many individuals who have worked as part of the EOC, from every corner of UW Medicine. But, for the moment, I would like to just acknowledge their incredibly hard work for the last seven months. All of this effort has primed us to face whatever comes next.
My message today includes an update on testing eligibility and process, and links to policies with recent changes.
Updates for today:
- UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
- Local/National/Global Epidemiology
- Employee Testing Survey Downtime
- Self-Scheduling for COVID-19 Testing
- Policy Updates
UW Medicine COVID-19 Activity Summary
King County: Public Health – Seattle & King County is reporting 25,554 total cases and 787 deaths as of Wednesday, Oct. 21. Approximately 3.1% of all tests performed are positive, and the number of new positive tests is currently at 94/14 days/100,000 people. The effective reproductive (Re) number is estimated to be 1.3 (estimate range: 0.5-2.1).
Washington: The Department of Health reports 99,874 cases and 2,286 deaths as of Tuesday, Oct. 20. Of the 2,276,453 people who have been tested, 4.4% have been positive.
United States: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 8,249,011 COVID-19 cases and 220,362 deaths as of Tuesday, Oct. 20.
Global: The WHO COVID-19 Dashboard reports 41,104,946 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,128,325 deaths as of Oct. 22.
Employee Testing Survey Downtime
The UW Medicine Employee COVID-19 Testing Survey will be unavailable from 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, to 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, for a critical upgrade. During this brief period, you will not be able to take the survey, which is required prior to scheduling an appointment for COVID-19 PCR testing.
Employees eligible for testing must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- New or worsening symptoms associated with COVID-19. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, muscle aches or pains, loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, fever > 100°F/38°C, sore throat, fatigue, or headache.
- You were directed to undergo testing by Public Health, Employee Health or another entity. You do not need to have any symptoms for this criterion. If you are directed to get tested and have any issues with the survey, please contact your local employee health team for help.
If you meet at least one of the above criteria, please plan to complete the survey before or after the program upgrade. There may be additional offline periods in the coming weeks during this same time window. If the survey is down during the evening, please try again in the morning.
Self-Scheduling for COVID-19 Testing
- As of Thursday, Oct. 15, new and returning UW Medicine patients can schedule COVID-19 testing online at: https://ecare.uwmedicine.org/prod01/openscheduling
- The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and COVID-19 Testing resource sites are now updated with these latest self-scheduling details.
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, UW Medicine continues to review our protocols and procedures to ensure they reflect the most up-to-date safety measures. The Emergency Operations Center is rolling out a standardized process to submit a new policy or suggest revisions to an existing policy.
Employees will need to complete the COVID-19 EOC Policy Template and submit it for evaluation, approval and publication. To request this template, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details, please see the EOC Policy Process.
Recent policy updates include:
- Student Policy for Clinical Rotations
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Conservation and Mitigation Plan
Please consult your supervisor or manager for any questions or clarifications on policy changes.
We keep talking about COVID fatigue, but that is because it’s the reality and I think we can all relate. This sense of exhaustion also has potential to contribute to future surging in positive cases – as we are tempted to loosen precautions after nearly nine months of adjusting to life in a pandemic and as the colder weather keeps us indoors more often. Despite these conditions, it’s crucial that we continue to do the things we know to work – masking, social distancing and staying home when we feel sick – and that we stay hopeful for a turn in the right direction.
I can’t say it enough – thank you for your collaboration, your solidarity and your dedication to serving our patients and community every day. On a personal note, thank you for all of the amazing support. I am grateful to be able to do this work and am lucky to be alongside you throughout the journey.
John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine