ACTION: Hiatus on all community engagement activities across the WWAMI region (including clinical service learning, health education, advocacy and mentoring) until March 17th 2020. School of Medicine students should not be participating in other (non-UWSOM initiated) service events as well.
We are all aware the COVID 19 outbreak is present in the US, and Washington state is at heightened focus for community spread. It is suspected the virus was spreading in an unknown and unmonitored way in the Seattle/Kirkland community for the last few weeks. Hence, the expectation is that cases will double every 6 days. The current estimate from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is that currently as many as 570 people in Washington have the virus. seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/coronavirus-kirkland-seattle-updates-tuesday/<http://seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/coronavirus-kirkland-seattle-updates-tuesday/>
The expectation is that our communities will experience a significant increase in COVID 19 cases in the following days/weeks. Whilst the current outbreak effects Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada for Western states we all are aware of the commerce, travel and risk for spread among our WWAMI region. The safety of our students and of our community is being prioritized.
Meetings with experts in infectious disease at UWMedicine, and our deans including Dr. Raye Maestas, Dr. Suzanne Allen and Dr. Paul Ramsey have considered the current state of events, and the risk to School of Medicine students in all educational environments. As such clinical clerkship students are not allowed to care for patients who are being assessed for COVID 19, nor confirmed cases. FCM has suspended PCP and hospital tutorials for preclinical students this week in the Seattle area.
This outbreak highlights the specific vulnerability of clinical community service activities. Not all students and staff are trained in infection control practices. Most sites do not have the supplies appropriate for “flu-level” infection control precautions. These include gowns, face masks with eye shields, and gloves. Presently there is a shortage of N-95 masks and those are unavailable to us, in addition to the barrier that students and preceptors would need N95 fitting (takes 10-20 minutes). At this time, the recommendation is that service projects upon resumption will need to be prepared for “flu-level” infection control and triage severely ill people to hospital settings (with N95 or PAPRs).
The decision about non-clinical service learning and community volunteerism being included in this hiatus is due to an effort to increase social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID. Our understanding is that Governor Inslee (WA) is on the brink of announcing a hiatus on large gatherings (sporting events, concerts, etc.). We acknowledge this is a more general precaution and stems from an abundance of caution.
Public health understanding of COVID 19- it’s behavior, spread, and treatment – is increasing and changing every day. We sincerely hope that in 2 weeks we will have a far better understanding of best practices and steps forward. For example we do not know if there is a healthy carrier state or if people can transmit the disease prior to manifesting usual symptoms.
While service learning activities are on a hiatus, SLAC leadership will be working on the tasks below. We feel this will help bring our service projects into closer parity to usual clinical protocols and protect our students and clientst from the spread of viruses like influenza for years to come.
– Uniform policies and procedures for respiratory infection control at community service sites
– Procurement of needed infection control supplies and distribution to all sites. We will be redistributing some of our large donation for this purpose.
– Training of preclinical students, staff and any preceptors that require it.
SPECIFIC ASKS FOR YOU:
– Please notify us of concerns
– Please let us know if you have an interest in helping with the tasks listed above.
We invite any dialogue from you all and our broader community on this decision. We hope to have our highly valued services back in the community soon, only more prepared, whilst prioritizing your safety and the safety of the community.
UWSOM-WWAMI Service Learning Team
Genevieve Pagalilauan MD, Service Learning Lead
Herbie Duber MD, Service Learning Co-Lead
Leonora Clarke, Service Learning Manager
Raye Maestas MD, Associated Dean of Student Affairs
Rick Arnold MD, past SLAC Chair