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 in 2021, 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.
WMed COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan
The Rapid Response Team has created a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan (updated June 1, 2021) 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. We offer COVID-19 curb-side testing to our patients with symptom or who request it. Our practices remain open during normal business hours. 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 the healthcare setting. All individuals are encouraged to practice social distancing. 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.
While not required, we highly encourage and recommend for our employees and students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We have collaborated with the local Health Department and clinical affiliate hospitals to provide the vaccines to our medical school community. Today, the vaccines are broadly available at many local pharmacies and community clinics.
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.
Flexible Working Solutions
In March 2020, we implemented a new policy that supports employees to work from home. WMed is requiring employees to work remotely but there are essential functions and patient care roles where this does not apply. Starting July 6, 2021, many employees will be able to return to work at WMed while also having flexible working options to continue to work remotely depending on the job role and function.
Face Masks and Social Distancing
Whenever anyone is at our facilities, all non-vaccinated individuals are required to wear a face mask and to practice social distancing 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. Should the need arise to ensure the safety of our learners, the faculty are prepared to deliver the curriculum through a hybrid manner or virtual learning, if necessary.
Visiting Students, Interns, Externs, and Other Learners
Visiting student experiences that were previously canceled have resumed. We are accepting new visiting students starting in summer 2021. All other learner experiences (interns, externships, etc.) are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis and require approvals for the home institution.
Social gatherings and events are permitted as of June 1, 2021 following safety protocols depending on the event size, location, and vaccination status of event attendees.
Visitors to WMed Campus Locations and Facilities
We are limiting visitors at all campus locations and facilities unless required for business purposes or to attend a WMed-sponsored event. All visitors must attest to their health status disclosing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 before entry. Non-vaccinated visitors must wear a face mask and practice social distancing when on medical school properties.
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: June 8, 2021