Skip to main content

UW Medicine COVID-19 Update March 10, 2020

UW Medicine continues to develop and compile policies, protocols and other resources to ensure our community is better prepared for a long-term response to COVID-19. Today, we are sharing important information on our policies for asymptomatic staff who have not had any  unprotected exposure to a known or suspected COVID-19 case. You will also find a range of support options that are now available to address challenges at work and at home, including counseling, childcare and town halls.

We recognize that our response to COVID-19 will be a marathon, and we will continue to share with you our plans to provide the best possible care for patients while protecting our employees and supporting the well-being of the UW Medicine community.

UW Medicine Work Policy for Staff Who Both Are Asymptomatic and Have Had No Known Unprotected Exposure to a Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 Case – Message from UW Medicine Leadership

Our colleagues at Public Health Seattle & King County shared a message last week with the community with recommendations (not requirements), that people at higher risk of severe illness stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible. People at higher risk include:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • With underlying health conditions (heart disease, lung disease or diabetes)
  • With weakened immune systems
  • Who are pregnant

Examples of settings that could be avoided include concert venues, conventions, sporting events and crowded social gatherings.  Public Health does not consider hospitals and clinics to be in those same categories as elective social events due to the use of additional measure such as personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize risk of exposure.

The UW Medicine healthcare team is made up of individuals from many communities representing a range of abilities, skills, perspectives, and life stages. Some members of our team are working while pregnant; others work while facing illnesses or treatments that may make them immunocompromised as a result; others who are older than 60 years of age (there are over 2,000 people working in UW Medicine in this last category)

Based on what we know today about this novel infectious disease, COVID-19 does not appear to be associated with an increased risk for worse outcomes in pregnancy. Less is known about its impact in immunocompromised populations.  At the same time, we recognize that we are still learning about how this virus acts in many different populations.

UW Medicine Policy Statement:

  • Staff over the age of 60: UW Medicine Staff and faculty who are over the age of 60 should continue to work per their regular schedules.
  • Staff who are pregnant, immunocompromised or over the age of 60 with underlying health conditions (such as poorly controlled diabetes; heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease): UW Medicine Staff and faculty in this category should continue to work per their regular schedules. Individuals are invited to talk to their team leader or manager about any concerns. We understand the concerns with direct patient care of patients with known COVID-19 and suggest these individuals talk to their team leader or manager about this. If this is a difficult conversation, we are here to help navigate it.

All UW Medicine PPE policies, protocols, and recommendations for providing care for patients with infectious diseases are designed to protect all healthcare workers, regardless of their age, health or pregnancy status. If you are concerned about access or type of PPE that is being recommended for your work, please talk to your team leader or manager. We are also messaging the UW community to remain home with respiratory symptoms that don’t require medical attention. This should also decrease potential exposure to ill co-workers.

We recognize and emphasize the need for each of us to prioritize our own health and well-being so we can best care for ourselves, our families and community for the long haul.

Well-Being Update – Message from Drs. Anne Browning and Trish Kritek

Thank you all for the unprecedented collaboration and creativity you are showing as we develop ways to best support our patients, community and each other in the face of the COVID-19.

Below are several ongoing efforts to provide support to our healthcare teams and their families during these challenging times. Many of the ideas come from folks taking care of patients with whom we have been talking over the last week. Thank you for your ongoing insights and recommendations. We know you are receiving a lot of communications.  Here are the quick takeaways with additional information below. We have also put these resources together on our faculty website.

Peer Support: We have ramped up our Peer Supporter network and will be able to offer virtual Peer Support session using zoom and other technologies. We know the stress, anxiety and exhaustion that comes with caring for folks during this time of uncertainty and knowing that we are all in this together. Please reach out through our Peer to Peer Program.

In addition to our one-on-one Peer Support, we will be offering group Peer Support discussions via zoom. The format for these sessions will be open conversations with all comers moderated by several of our Peer Supporters. Our first Peer Support drop-in session will take place 4 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday March 10; Meeting ID: 617 972 378.  All members of our healthcare teams are welcome to attend.

We recognize that this is a challenging time for families as well. We will hold an additional Peer Support drop-in session via Zoom for partners and spouses Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m.; Meeting ID: 798 370 879.  Our hope is that this will allow an opportunity to listen and answer questions from these essential members of our team.

Childcare: For many folks with children, a primary concern is the potential loss of childcare and day-time child supports as we anticipate more school closures in the coming weeks. We share your concern and realize that this will impact our workforce’s ability to perform clinical care and have downtime when away from work. We have a team from across the University of Washington compiling and expanding resources to best support parents and caregivers in our workforce. We will leverage creative ways to draw on the strengths of our broader community to support access to childcare in the eventuality of additional closures.  For now, we recommend that parents connect with other families in their schools and neighborhoods to set up shared care plans if possible.  Back up child care is available through the UW on a first come first serve basis: will have a separate communication about additional options soon.

Acknowledging the Challenges: For providers and family members who would like immediate help, please contact our Faculty and Staff Assistance Program: Carelink which provides consultation and triage support.  Free counseling or a session with a Critical Incident Counselor is available within 24 hours. Call 866.598.3978 to set up in-person or over-the-phone counseling at a date and time that works for you.

Sharing our experiences in healthcare, especially during intense, emotional or stressful times increases our connectedness and well-being. Hearing stories from others helps us know we are not alone and strengthens our community. The authenticity, compassion, creativity and bravery of our colleagues helps us access our own emotions and helps us carry on.

If you are interested in sharing a short reflection (55 words or fewer) about how the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted you to understand, appreciate or process something about the impact, response, or practice of medicine and healthcare at this moment, please use our Catalyst submission form. We invite all members of the healthcare team to contribute across all professions and roles. Please feel free to share with a colleague.

Town Halls: Lastly, we want to provide access to folks on the front lines to share their concerns and needs regarding their health and well-being with our leadership. We will host a well-being focused town hall on Friday, March 13. Please check your local medical center or practice location communications for updates on local town halls throughout the week.

In a time of great challenge, it has been inspiring to witness the coming together of our community.  We have been in awe of the sacrifices and courage of our team members in the units supporting patients with COVID-19 as well as those who are caring for all the other patients in our system, those working with high risk patients and navigating their treatment in ongoing innovative ways, our community members working to build reliable testing for the virus as well as already working on a future vaccine, and our leaders who are tirelessly building the foundation we need to face the marathon ahead. We are grateful for our entire UW Medicine community.  Please feel free to reach out to any of us directly if you have questions, concerns and suggestions regarding how we can best support our community well-being.

UW Medicine Communication for Community Partners: UW Medicine has implemented a policy for communication with Adult Family Homes, Long-Term Acute Care Hospitals and Skilled Nursing Facilities. See the Communication policy on our UW Medicine COVID-19 Website.

Situation Report: Public Health – Seattle & King County reported 74 new cases of COVID-19 on March 10, 2020, which brings the total number of reported King County cases to 190, including 22 deaths. The Washington State Department of Health reports 267 confirmed cases and 24 deaths in the state.

The CDC reports 647 cases of confirmed or presumed COVID-19 cases in the United States in 36 states (including the District of Columbia). Travel health notices have been issues for the following countries and territories: China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan and Hong Kong. For the most current COVID-19 country list, please refer to our Current Outbreak List on our UW Medicine COVID-19 Website.

The World Health Organization reports a total of 113,702 confirmed cases globally. In China, 80,924 confirmed cases and 3,140 deaths have been reported.