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COVID-19: Employee Communication

The past couple of days have truly been unprecedented, and we cannot express enough how honored and humbled we have been by the efforts shown by all of the staff at every level of the organization.

In an effort of support, we want to provide some updates in areas we know are top of mind:

Elective procedures and surgeries
Based on the impact this virus is having in our own facilities here in Seattle and based on actions from our local community and other healthcare partners, UW Medicine has decided to begin postponing elective procedures effective Monday, March 16 thru March 31. We will be evaluating this decision weekly with the hope of getting back to normal operations as soon as possible. Leadership will be reaching out to you about any exceptions to this policy. UWMC-Northwest has taken immediate action due to the large volume of COVID-19 patients that they are currently managing.

In preparation for postponing elective care, we are asking that each service who delivers elective care quickly huddle and determine which patients should be postponed. Please review what is truly elective and can wait. We must continue to provide urgent and emergent care to our patients and not cancel anything that will jeopardize the patients’ immediate health status. Please document all procedures that are being postponed, so that we can determine the impact. We will provide schedulers a script to use when informing patients. Please do not start this postponement process until Friday, March 13, in the morning when you receive the script.

Northwest Geropsychiatric Center
We wanted to let you know that the Geropsychiatric Center at UW Medical Center – Northwest has detected two positive coronavirus cases today. We have taken immediate action to move positive patients to an isolated area of the hospital for treatment and further monitoring. We have tested and are actively monitoring all remaining patients within the Geropsychiatric unit. If any of our patients demonstrate COVID-19 symptoms, they will be moved to an appropriate isolated area. Potentially exposed staff have been contacted by our Employee Health team and have been provided information on potential exposure and screening guidelines. We have notified the families of patients affected by this news.

Responding to COVID-19 has placed and will continue to place unprecedented pressure on our supply of PPE and other critical equipment. To combat this challenge, we are taking extraordinary measures to conserve and extend supplies of critical equipment while maintaining staff and patient safety. We will continue to monitor and regulate equipment usage to ensure supplies for front-line staff are available. We will reduce staff interaction with affected patients, and we are limiting those who come into contact with affected patients. We will continue to work with our vendors and partners to acquire additional supplies as soon as possible. We have formally requested supplies from the National Stockpile.

We’re in this together
At the moment there are two clear knowns: 1) The next couple of days will continue to be unprecedented and will challenge each of us in unexpected ways. 2) UW Medicine is prepared for the challenge. We have the absolute best team in the country when it comes to infectious disease and operate with highest professionalism at every level of the organization.

Please stay safe and follow all safety protocols. When you are off shift, make sure you are resting and taking care of yourself and your family. We need everyone healthy and mentally focused on the path and tasks ahead.

New and Updated Clinical Protocols and Guidelines

As many of you know, we have been working hard at developing protocols, policies and recommendations for the care of known or suspected COVID-19 patients, the health of our community, and the safety and protection of our staff. I’d like to thank the many of you who have volunteered to provide expert guidance.

Following please find some important updates on our UW Medicine COVID-19 Website:

Clinical Protocols and Guidelines – NEW

Discontinuation of precautions for hospitalized patients with previous diagnosis of COVID-19:

  • Key new guidance on how to “clear” a patient, discontinue precautions and facilitate discharge.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Donning and Doffing for Special Contact/Droplet:

  • Standardized methodology across UW Medicine for donning and doffing, a key component for keeping patients and staff safe.

Room cleaning for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases:

  • Key: For ambulatory settings, no downtime of room is required.
  • Treat cleaning per Droplet/Contact Precautions protocol (same as influenza).

ED Discharge instructions for patients with a viral syndrome:

  • Provides education and clarifies expectations for patients and families.

Ambulatory Alternate Care Delivery Options (ACDO) Workflow:

  • Provides alternatives to in-person appointments, including phone, telehealth video visit, eCare.

Practices to minimize aerosolizing procedures for patients on droplet precautions:

  • Tool to promote the judicious utilization of aerosolizing procedures which, in turn, will lead to less airborne isolation needs.

Conservation plan for respiratory supplies:

  • Provides staff with guidance on how to maximize conservation of disposable supplies in critical situations.

Clinical Protocols and Guidelines – UPDATED

  • Number of swabs and testing recommendations:
  • In an effort to conserve supplies, including swabs, Lab Medicine has asked us to just submit 1 swab in a single bag to test for both COVID-19 and flu, if clinically indicated.
  • UW Medicine Employee COVID-19 Testing Center will start sending only COVID-19 tests.
  • Outpatient clinics should limit testing to COVID-19 whenever possible. Flu/RSV should only be tested if it will substantively change clinical management. Use clinical judgement and empiric oseltamivir when clinically indicated.
  • Test for flu/RSV in inpatients/ED only when clinically indicated. Do not test for flu/RSV just because the patient is being tested for COVID-19.


  • Hand hygiene and environmental cleaning are the keys to infection prevention.
  • Facemasks and other PPE must not be worn outside of direct patient care.
  • If you’re sick, please stay home and review the staff guidance posted on our UW Medicine COVID-19 Website.
  • If you have acute respiratory symptoms such as new cough, muscle aches, fever, new shortness of breath or sore throat, please fill out the survey if you would like an appointment in our UW Medicine Employee COVID-19 Testing Center located at UWMC – Northwest. The link to the survey has changed. Employee Health will contact you with details regarding time and location.
  • Please review telework and travel recommendations on our website.
  • We strongly recommend that you shave facial hair in order to obtain the correct seal needed for N95 masks. Accommodations will be made for those who have facial hair for religious or medical reasons.
  • Check out our new external facing website for us to share our protocols and recommendations with the whole world. Send any COVID-19 clinical protocols to Drs. Santiago Neme and John Lynch for review and posting. Please share this widely with your colleagues everywhere:

UW Medicine Town Hall Announcement

Organized by Dr. Trish Kritek, MD, EdM, Associate Dean – Faculty Affairs

We invite all members of the UW Medicine community to a Zoom Town Hall to talk more about the evolving COVID-19 outbreak. We know that this is a time of uncertainty, stress and anxiety. Our goal is to answer questions and to listen to concerns. Please join us for our Zoom Town Hall on Friday, March 13 at 3:00 p.m. The zoom link is

We realize that many folks will be caring for patients or have other commitments. We will record the discussion and post it on The Huddle afterwards. We will also have a second Town Hall next week.