UChicago Medicine to bring back employees potentially exposed to COVID-19
University of Chicago Medicine will bring back workers who were furloughed after potential exposure to COVID-19, part of a larger plan that will also implement universal masking for all staff.
Beginning Friday, all personnel must wear some type of facemask when working on the medical campus, with the goal of reducing the risk of transmission from staff who might be carrying the disease but asymptomatic.
Only asymptomatic faculty and staff will return to work. Those who are exhibiting symptoms will stay home, while those who have tested positive for the virus must stay home unless cleared to return.
“It is absolutely essential that we have these skilled people to help us, but it is also essential that we take every precaution to make sure we can do it in a way that makes sure everyone stays safe,” said Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director of infection prevention and control at UChicago Medicine.
She said cloth facemasks will be used to prevent workers’ respiratory droplets from landing on surfaces or other people while on campus. Those caring for patients exhibiting symptoms or diagnosed with COVID-19 will be required to use surgical and N95 masks, based on the type of patient care involved.
If cloth masks are in short supply, employees will be issued a procedural mask until supplies are replenished.
As of Thursday afternoon, Landon said the system was treating more than 50 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 70 patients are under investigation.
She said the hospital has decided against rehiring retired medical professionals due to them potentially being high-risk for serious illness. UChicago Medicine is also trying not to use its medical students in the response to the virus.
“We don’t think it’s probably appropriate for them to be using (personal protective equipment) and practicing taking care of patients on patients that have COVID-19,” Landon said.
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