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Staffing During COVID-19 Surge; Updating Our Return-to-Work Policy

The current surge of COVID-19 activity has pushed case counts in our region to their highest point of the pandemic and placed unbelievable strain on all areas of our health system.

We know you’re feeling it and we are grateful for the way you’ve responded. Your commitment to our patients is the reason we have been able to continue providing high-quality care even through the worst days of this pandemic.

After reviewing changes recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), evaluating the characteristics of the Omicron variant, talking to many of our staff and clinicians, and acknowledging the significant staffing stress in our organization, UW Medicine is revising our return-to-work plan to better align with the latest CDC guidelines for healthcare workers.

Effective immediately, healthcare workers with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 illness, or those who are asymptomatic, may return to work if:

  • At least five (5) days have passed from the onset of symptoms or their first positive test (day 0 is the first day of symptoms or having a positive test, whichever is first) AND
  • At least 24 hours have passed since their last fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) AND
  • Symptoms have improved and coughing, sneezing, or nose blowing is infrequent, controllable, and does not interrupt patient care or work. Symptom status requires either completing an online evaluation that will be sent to you or by contacting your Employee Health Clinic.


A negative test result will not be necessary for healthcare workers to return to work provided all the above criteria are met.



Non-clinical employees in the School of Medicine should continue to follow guidance from UW Environmental Health & Safety.



This policy aligns with both the latest guidance from the CDC and what other health systems in our region are doing. This change will help mitigate some of the staffing challenges that exist, allow employees to participate in the monitoring of their symptoms and the decision to return to work, and fits with other steps we have taken to manage the current surge.

For healthcare workers who are exposed to someone with COVID-19, please contact Employee Health for recommendations. For high-risk exposures (such as living with a person with COVID-19), healthcare workers should continue to stay home (quarantine) until five (5) days have passed and then can return to work with a negative PCR test between days 4-6 followed by additional testing as advised by Employee Health.

We continue to encourage testing for any employee experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who has had a high-risk exposure. If you work directly with patients or in patient-facing areas, please schedule your test online before going to one of our testing sites.

Please also note the employee testing clinics at Harborview and UW Medical Center–Northwest are operating at maximum capacity right now. We have instituted some temporary guidelines to balance the load and to provide more access.

Finally, a reminder of the importance of vaccine booster shots. We know boosters increase protection against COVID-19 infection and severe outcomes and that most UW Medicine employees are now eligible to receive one. If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to schedule your booster now through our online scheduling portal at https://c19-vaccine.uwmedicine.org.

With all that is happening, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. We understand. Please know that we are deeply grateful for your hard work and dedication and that we are doing everything in our power to provide you the support you need to continue caring for our patients through this public health emergency.

Sincerely,

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

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

Cindy Hecker
Chief Executive Officer
UW Medical Center

Sommer Kleweno Walley
Chief Executive Officer
Harborview Medical Center

Jeannine Grinnell
Chief Executive Officer
Valley Medical Center

Debra Gussin
Associate Vice President
Primary Care Services and Population Health
UW Medicine

Jeff Richey
Executive Director
Airlift Northwest
UW Medicine

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