The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought about rapid and continuous change, as well as uncertainty across the U.S. and the globe. As the pandemic continues to unfold, we are closely monitoring the situation in collaboration with local Health Department leadership. It is our primary goal to ensure the safety of our patients, learners, and employees while continuing to meet the educational and healthcare needs of those that we serve. We have implemented proactive measures, new policies, and other actions so that we can continue our operations during the pandemic.
WMed Rapid Response Team
On March 11, 2020, we activated a Rapid Response Team in response to COVID-19. The team meets regularly to assess the pandemic’s impact on our institution and to coordinate our response to ensure the safety of our patients, employees, and students. The team includes senior leaders, the county medical director, infectious disease physicians, and Occupational Health. Communication is shared with internal stakeholders whenever new decisions are made. All email communications are also posted on internal portals for reference. The internal infection control portal includes valuable resources, health advisories, links, and information related to the pandemic. The Rapid Response Team created a video message to share with the WMed community to show their thanks and appreciation for all that our employees do every day to meet the needs of our learners, patients, and the community during these unprecedented times.
WMed COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan
The Rapid Response Team has created a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan in accordance with requirements in the Executive Orders for COVID-19 issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the MIOSHA Emergency Rules, the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, and the latest guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The purpose of this plan is to minimize or eliminate employee and learner exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
CARES Act Reporting
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allotted $2.2 trillion to provide fast and direct economic aid to people negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that money, approximately $14 billion was given to the Office of Postsecondary Education as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). HEERF provided funds to institutions for emergency aid grants to students, and institutional expenses related COVID-19.
Meeting the Needs of Our Patients
WMed Health, the clinical practice of the medical school, is taking every precaution necessary and following CDC guidelines as well as local, state, and national mandates to meet the needs of our patients who are impacted by COVID-19. Our practices remain open during normal business hours. The call volume has increased as patients are encouraged to call us first if they have any health concerns or symptoms so we can screen them and advise them if they need to come in to be seen and/or tested. Upon arrival, patients are screened for symptoms and provided a face mask to wear in accordance with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Emergency Order on face masks in public places. We are limiting visitors and other families from entry into our practices unless absolutely necessary. Our providers and clinical teams have received additional training and communication related to COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, room cleaning, and patient care team hygiene. We offer telehealth via video and phone visits so we can treat patients remotely. Our providers and clinical team are required to do daily monitoring and reporting of staff symptoms of illness.
As of April 1, 2021, WMed-related travel is permitted. To be eligible for business-related travel, the individual must be fully vaccinated with both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Working Remotely Policy
In March 2020, we implemented a new policy that supports employees to work from home. The policy also includes provisions related to the use of paid time off (PTO) should current PTO banks be depleted due to time off caused by the coronavirus. WMed is requiring employees to work remotely but there are essential functions and patient care roles where this does not apply. We have identified and documented the critical services and work functions that must be maintained in order for WMed to be considered operational. Through employee cross-training and contingency plans we are committed to maintaining our operations should our employees become sick or quarantined because of COVID-19. Now is the time, like no other, when the WMed values of leadership, teamwork, and collaboration come to life. Whenever anyone is at our facilities, all are required to wear surgical or cloth masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.
Educational Program Changes
From late March through summer 2020, our educational programs were delivered in a manner so that our students did not need to be present on campus. Faculty utilized recorded lectures, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other online learning tools. Starting in June 2020, clinical site rotations began with approval and support from our affiliate hospitals. Students returned to campus starting in late July 2020 depending on program and class year. The medical and graduate student curricula is delivered in a hybrid manner using both in-person and virtual learning following strict guidelines for group size, social distancing, and other safety precautions. Should the need arise to ensure the safety of our learners, the faculty are prepared to deliver the curriculum through only virtual learning, if necessary.
Visiting Students, Interns, Externs, and Other Learners
Visiting student experiences that were previously canceled have resumed. We are not accepting any new visiting students until August 2021. All other learner experiences (interns, externships, etc.) are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis and require approvals for the home institution.
Following CDC recommendations, we have canceled, postponed or altered the delivery mechanism for medical school-hosted meetings providing options for attendees to participate via phone, Microsoft Teams, in smaller groups, or following group size safety guidelines. All are required to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet when meeting in-person and all meeting rooms have new social distancing capacity guidelines. Social gatherings are permitted as of June 1, 2021 following new safety protocols.
Visitors to WMed Campus Locations and Facilities
We are discouraging and limiting visitors at all campus locations and facilities. This includes sales representatives, vendors, business associates, family members, friends, and other guests. Vendors who are delivering supplies or providing crucial services are permitted access.
Facility and Personal Hygiene
We implemented extra effort and resources to continuously sanitize and keep all of our facilities clean. Additional hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout our facilities and all employees have been provided with a personal supply of hand sanitizer.
COVID-19 Developments LibGuide
As part of an ongoing project, a research team consisting of medical students, a WMed librarian, and WMed faculty member are locating, synthesizing, and summarizing current COVID-19 literature in order to provide relevant and useful resources for the medical school community and the broader community. The COVID-19 Developments LibGuide contains relevant information on the pandemic, including links to general COVID-19 resources and treatment guidelines, as well as synthesis papers on various topics related to COVID-19 that are continuously updated as new literature is published. Also included in the guide is a section on COVID-19 Hot Topics, which identifies a COVID-19 topic that is popular in the news or social media. The guide is available at https://libguides.med.wmich.edu/covid19.
The safety and well-being of our WMed community remains our top priority as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Updated: April 30, 2021