First responders and medical staff test positive for coronavirus. UW doctors not getting masks
An employee of Valley Medical Center in Renton, a University of Washington facility, has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a spokesperson. The employee is recovering at home and being monitored.
This employee had contact with a COVID-19 patient, according to a letter sent out to employees.
Nineteen other employees at UW Valley were tested for coronavirus, or COVID-19. Eight of the test results have returned negative, and 11 of the results are not yet in.
Jessica Askew Palm, spokesperson for Valley Medical, said they should receive the remainder of their results in 48 hours.
A University of Washington doctor elsewhere told KUOW they were frustrated by the lack of preparedness by the university and public health. They would not, for example, have access to N95 masks even though they were in contact with sick patients.
“The stores are out. I might try to buy my own or ask friends for them,” the doctor said.
The doctor forwarded an email from UW leadership confirming they would not be receiving N95 masks, which are effective against respiratory viruses, and instead have been asked to use surgical masks, which are not.
“We have had no drills,” the doctor said, noting that the first confirmed coronavirus case was six weeks ago in Snohomish County. “We have been asked to watch videos about [personal protective equipment].”
The doctor said that their call center was not briefed on screening patients for coronavirus and asking patients with cold or flu symptoms to do telemedicine visits. Those people were accidentally scheduled to come in, potentially exposing vulnerable patients. Further, well visits for older patients have not been rescheduled, the doctor said.
“We are asking older patients to come into our clinics for visits that can wait, at a time when we are probably going to be high risk for exposure,” the doctor said.
Nurses from Swedish Medical Center also told KUOW that they did not have enough masks across the hospital system.
In a previous KUOW story, Dr. Clyde Crumpacker, infectious disease specialist and professor at Harvard Medical School, said he was concerned with the United States' “slow response” to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Initially when this occurred, [Chinese healthcare workers] weren’t protecting themselves either,” Crumpacker said. “The danger to ... healthcare workers and first responders is a real one. I think the U.S. is just catching on now, late."
Meanwhile, 26 firefighters and three police officers in Kirkland, Washington, are in quarantine. All those cases are linked to the first responders contact with the Life Care Center, a nursing home where there has been an outbreak of the virus.
As of Tuesday, 12 of these first responders were showing flu-like symptoms, Kirkland officials reported. Most are in home isolation and quarantine.
UW Valley Medical is also treating a patient who tested positive for coronavirus – they are waiting for confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control.
That patient came to the Valley emergency room with symptoms unrelated to coronavirus. According to a statement, “during the patient’s state, symptoms related to COVID-19 developed and the patient was put on appropriate isolation precautions.”
Due to limited availability, only employees that both had exposure to a known case and are showing signs (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or body aches) will be tested, the employer communication states.