April 1, 2020, Briefing - Answers to Commonly Asked Questions

Questions submitted for this briefing include these topics:

Cleaning & Sanitation Protocols

Our custodial staff is sanitizing common spaces and high-touchpoint public areas three to four times daily. Carpets are being vacuumed in accordance with our standard housekeeping processes. Clinics are receiving nightly cleaning and disinfection, plus restrooms are getting twice daily cleaning and disinfection. High-touchpoint cleaning inside the clinics should be conducted by the clinic department staff.

Custodial staff is not sanitizing suite, open work areas, and personal office desks, or keyboards, phones, and other office equipment. That should be handled by the Ambulatory staff using a disinfectant, per CDC guidelines. If you have additional concerns, please speak with your supervisor who can coordinate with facilities operations.

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Exposure

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, we want to ensure you take the appropriate steps for your safety and our community. Please see Occupational Health’s exposure concern grid (requires VPN) for details on whom you need to contact. If you provide care or support at one of our partner institutions, such as Parkland, Children’s Health, or Texas Health, you must notify the Occupational Health Department at each campus. Please note:

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 while on the job, please reach out to Occupational Health.
If you think you may have had community exposure, contact your primary care provider. If you are subsequently tested with a positive result, notify Occupational Health. Once cleared to return to work, you must send your primary care provider’s documented clearance notification to Occupational Health via occupationalhealth-utsw@utsouthwestern.edu.

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FMLA, Sick Time, and Leave Policies

On March 19, the federal government passed emergency leave acts that became effective April 1. These new policies state that any eligible employee who tests positive or is quarantined due to symptoms can apply for emergency paid leave and/or emergency family medical leave. These policies, including eligibility criteria and rates of reimbursement, can be found in UT Southwestern’s policy library, under policy EMP-262. If you have additional questions or feel you are eligible, please speak to your supervisor, who will coordinate with Human Resources.

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Furlough and Staffing

As with all organizations during this time, we are unsure what lasting effects the economic shutdown will have on our institution. UT Southwestern is committed to balancing support for our valued employees with our fiduciary and compliance requirements as an institution of higher education and an agency of the state of Texas. Currently, leaders from across the institution, including Human Resources, Employee Relations, and Operations, are working to identify how this economic situation will affect us and what systems will need to be put in place to address our challenges.

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Masks

For the safety of all staff and patients, effective Friday, April 3, the EOC and institutional leadership are requiring all hospital and ambulatory clinicians and staff to wear masks, including those who are not in direct patient care roles. You will be provided one mask per day. We ask that you not discard your mask. At the end of the day, masks should be placed in a collection site available at the entrances of the hospitals and clinic buildings for reprocessing. All masks will be sterilized in accordance with guidelines from the CDC.

We also ask that you not bring masks from home, as we have no way of validating the efficacy or cleanliness of masks brought in from the outside.

Please speak with your immediate supervisor regarding policies for reutilization of masks in your clinical area.

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Patient Demographics in the U.S. vs. Other Countries

Currently, all countries affected by COVID-19 are seeing all types of patient demographics. Differences in hospitalized patients could be due to many factors such as living arrangements, age of population, underlying health conditions, diet, and genetics. To protect the privacy of patients, UT Southwestern is not releasing demographics of infected patients. As the situation progresses, please watch our COVID-19 website for additional information.

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PPE Supply

Currently, UT Southwestern has adequate supplies of ventilators and PPE. As this situation evolves and the presence of COVID-19 spreads, we will begin to see significant strains placed on our supplies of critical equipment, including N95 respirators, respiratory equipment, ventilators, and other PPE.

In order to best preserve our stock of PPE equipment, we have implemented new strategies to conserve and maintain an adequate supply of resources for the protection of our health care workers in close contact with patients who are potentially infected. If an acute shortage develops, supplies may be reallocated to care areas based on risk and recommendations from the CDC and our Infectious Diseases leadership. For more details about our current strategies, you can visit the UT Southwestern COVID-19 website for clinician information. We are constantly updating our websites as the situation changes.

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Returning to Campus

All decisions regarding employees on campus are in accordance with the Dallas County shelter-in-place order. At this time, only essential activities are permitted. As the situation evolves, we will re-evaluate our policies to ensure the health of our faculty and employees.

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Surge Predictions

Our infectious disease experts, including Dr. Trish Perl, are constantly evaluating predictive models regarding the spread of infection and anticipated surge in North Texas. As these models are changing daily – both on a local and federal level – it is difficult to pinpoint a projected timeframe for a peak. Every day provides new information that can adjust these models. With this ever-changing landscape, we are focusing our efforts on being prepared with procedures and policies in place for the eventual surge in cases.

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Testing and Numbers

Although we understand the need for information during this time, we ask everyone to respect the privacy of individuals who come to our campus for care – including our staff members. As mentioned by UTSW President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky during his April 1 weekly briefing, current numbers of COVID-19 cases at Clements University Hospital (CUH) will now be included in each day’s EOC message. Case data for the state of Texas will also be shared every Wednesday. If you are looking for information about COVID-related infections, data is being shared through the Dallas County Health and Human Services website.

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Visitor Policy

Currently, we are restricting the number of visitors per patient to one. Additionally, in order to protect the health of our children, those under age 12 are not allowed to visit. 

We are recommending that all patients take advantage of our virtual technology, including Skype, to stay connected to loved ones, but our visitor policy and visitor screening processes are under constant review. 

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Listen to the Full Briefing