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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, healthcare workers have been personally impacted by spread of the virus throughout the community. UW Medicine continues to focus on creating a safe environment for our healthcare workers while also finding innovative ways to support all members of our team during this challenging time. As long as we continue to have COVID-19 transmission within our community, healthcare workers may become ill.

At the beginning of April, the University of Washington Medical Center – Northwest became aware of a small cluster of COVID-19 positive staff on one of its medical surgical units. After the third case was diagnosed, the medical center opened a unit wide investigation on April 6 and based on the findings began offering testing to all staff who work on that unit.

Out of nearly 100 staff who underwent surveillance testing, 11 additional staff members were found to be positive for COVID-19. Based on the results of our investigation, the transmission is believed to have occurred over several days at the end of March and was most likely transmitted from healthcare worker to healthcare worker.

Although this particular unit is not designated for care of patients with confirmed COVID-19, UW Medical Center – Northwest has been proactively testing all hospitalized patients since early April (both symptomatic and asymptomatic) at the time of admission. To our knowledge, there is no evidence of transmission of the virus between patients and staff, reaffirming that adherence to strong infection prevention practices reduces the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

All COVID-19 positive employees, who represent a range of job positions from nurses to therapists, are at home recovering in stable condition.

The unit has been deep-cleaned and sanitized. Physical distancing is being strictly enforced in break rooms and conference rooms. All staff working in a patient care setting have access to hospital-grade surgical masks and are encouraged to wear them.

Since March 23, all UW Medicine staff are required to attest before each shift that they do not have a fever or other symptoms of acute respiratory infection before being allowed to work. Those who report any symptom of respiratory infection are sent home and offered testing.

As an added precaution, UW Medical Center – Northwest is currently testing all patients on the unit for COVID-19 who have not been tested in the prior 48 hours. There are currently 14 patients hospitalized on the 36-bed unit.

UW Medicine is committed to the safety of the patients we serve. We are also committed to supporting our staff who may also be personally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage all members of the community to practice physical distancing, wash hands frequently, and support loved ones, friends and neighbors through this challenge.


John Lynch, MD, MPH 
Medical Director, Infection Prevention
Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine

Santiago Neme, MD, MPH
Medical Director
UWMC – Northwest Campus
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
UW School of Medicine