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2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

UW Medicine continues to maintain a high level of preparedness regarding the outbreak of the 2019 coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, in coordination with Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health. While the immediate risk of this virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, we want to share with you key elements of our response to this emerging public health threat.

Worldwide status report

  • On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
  • To date there have been over 64,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with most of the cases occurring in mainland China. In the United States, 427 individuals have been screened, 15 have tested positive, 347 negative, and 66 tests still pending. Patients with this virus have reported mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. CDC reports that 11 confirmed cases have been diagnosed in the United States. The first case diagnosed in the U.S., a man diagnosed in Washington state after traveling to Wuhan, China, has been released from the hospital.

 Local status report

  • Under the leadership of Dr. John Lynch, medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) program, the UW Medicine COVID-19 Response Team includes infectious disease physicians, nursing and administrative leadership, IPC team members from all sites, communications, supply chain, facilities and leaders of other critical functions.
  • Daily team meetings ensure all entities are well prepared to screen patients who present at any of our entities, while ensuring the safety of our physicians, staff and other patients.
  • Dr. Tim Dellit, chief medical officer for UW Medicine, coordinates our response activities with University of Washington leadership, as part of a broader effort to prepare for potential COVID-19 exposures among UW faculty, staff and students.
  • Harborview Medical Center has been designated as the lead coordinating entity should patients need to be hospitalized or screened within our system.
  • Harborview’s Home Assessment Team (HAT), led by Vanessa Makarewicz, R.N., manager of the Harborview IPC team, provides COVID–19 screening and testing at individuals’ homes instead of in clinics and emergency rooms.
  • The UW Medicine Supply Chain team has increased stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to assess and care for patients with known or suspected COVID-19 infection. The team will also be introducing access controls to ensure that we have appropriate PPE for patients and staff when they are needed.

Employee and patient safety

Prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following standard precautions for respiratory illnesses and closely adhering to screening and prevention criteria:

  • Practice good hand hygiene, cover your cough and stay home if you are ill.
  • If patients present with flu symptoms, offer them a mask and move them out of the general waiting area to protect other patients.
  • Continue to obtain a travel history on all patients presenting with respiratory symptoms, fever and/or a rash.
  • If you receive a call from a patient who has flu-like symptoms and has traveled to mainland China within the past 14 days of exhibiting symptoms, please contact the Infection Prevention & Control team or individual for your facility to coordinate appropriate care.
  • Patients with respiratory illness symptoms are being advised to call or use eCare to reach their providers before coming to a hospital or clinic. They can also call the Nurse Care Line, which has a recorded message to answer frequently asked questions and an option to consult with a nurse. The FAQs are posted on and updated as new information becomes available. The Nurse Care Line can be reached at 206.520.2285 or 1.855.520.2285.

 Patient care considerations

  • Note for faculty and staff who provide direct patient care: All laboratory testing for the COVID-19 virus is performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). None of the UW clinical labs test for this virus. If a UW clinical lab results report indicates that a patient has a coronavirus, this is one of the common human coronaviruses that cause colds, not the novel coronavirus. Please contact the ID consult service on-call or your facility’s Infection Prevention & Control team with any questions or concerns.

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