Doctors give COVID-19 response update
The latest developments in UW Medicine's response to the COVID-19 outbreak in western Washington were presented to the news media at a press briefing March 12. The speakers were Dr. Tim Dellit, chief medical officer of UW Medicine, who is also an infection control expert, and Dr. Santiago Neme, medical director of UW Medical Center-Northwest.
One of the areas they spoke about were UW Medicine protocols that are now becoming models for other parts of the country preparing for or responding to outbreaks in their own communities. Among these are the design and implemenation of a laboratory test for the new coronavirus in the UW School of Medicine's Department of Laboratory Medicine. The local availability of the diagnostic test is speeding up the identification of new cases of COVID-19.
Dellit and Neme also discussed the drive-thru testing of UW Medicine employees with respiratory symptoms. This takes place at the UW Medical Center-Northwest campus. The testing can detect influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, as well as SARS-CoV2, the virus responsibile for the present pandemic.
Dellit said, "it is no longer busines as usual" as COVID-19 spreads. He mentioned the public health goal of flattening the curve in the increase of COVID-19 cases to effectively meet the demand for care. He also explained why coronavirus testing has not become universal for any consumer requesting it. While the criteria has expanded, the ordering is based on clinical criteria and the judgement of the person's healthcare provider.
Dellit and Neme also updated reporters on some of the new cases of COVID-19 reported within the UW Medicine system. These include the number of employees who have tested positive. They also spoke about the two cases of COVID-19 detected as of March 12 at the inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry unit at UW Medical Center-Northwest, and detailed the steps underway in response.
Neme explained to reporters that one important lessons learned in other countries and the U.S. during this outbreak is that elderly people may not manifest the classic symptoms of COVID-19, due to their waning immune systems. This knowledge can help clinicians be aware of the possibility of infection in their older patients.
Dellit mentoined that UW Medicine is making its policies and protocols developed in response to the outbreak publicly available on a web site. These are continously revised as new information is obtained.
COVID-19 is a rapidly changing situation, he said.