More than 100 Michigan Medicine employees test positive for COVID-19

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 - 4:48pm

More than 100 Michigan Medicine employees test positive for COVID-19.

More than 100 Michigan Medicine employees test positive for COVID-19. Buy this photo
Dominick Sokotoff/Daily

728 Michigan Medicine employees have been tested for COVID-19 and 110 of those tests have come back positive as of Monday, according to a press release from Michigan Medicine.

“Importantly, please note these numbers don’t indicate how or where those who tested positive contracted the disease,” the release reads. “The numbers reflect just those who sought testing at Michigan Medicine or those hospitalized at Michigan Medicine.”

Some Michigan Medicine employees may have been tested outside the system, and are therefore not counted in these numbers. Fewer than 10 of the employees were hospitalized for a day or more.

In a video announcement on Thursday, Jeff Desmond, chief medical officer at Michigan Medicine, addressed the concerns about medical professionals being kept safe from exposure to COVD-19. Desmond explained the use of personal protective equipment and its importance in keeping medical professionals safe. He noted that Michigan Medicine is taking all of the necessary precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We currently have enough personal protective equipment and we have adequate, appropriate PPE in all our locations. That said, we are also taking steps to appropriately conserve PPE so that will last through this pandemic,” Desmond said. “Second, Michigan Medicine made the decision to have our entire employee population wear masks during work on March 23, 10 days ago. This was done to prevent potential spread within the organization and was focused on keeping our employees safe. We were one of the first health systems in the country to adopt this policy.”

Katie Oppenheim, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, spoke to The Daily about the safety of fellow medical professionals and the difficulty of getting access to testing for the public. 

“It is challenging to even get tested,” Oppenheim said. “The criteria are pretty rigid. People have been denied getting tested for a number of reasons. It is hoped that it is going to change any day now where easy, quick testing will be available at the health system. Hopefully, they will have thousands of people so that we can see the trajectory for this.”

Michigan Medicine nurses at high risk of contracting the virus have struggled to obtain testing, noting the difficulty of caring for patients during a pandemic and weighing the benefits of staying home from work when there is a shortage of qualified medical professionals.

Oppenhiem also acknowledged the need to monitor for symptoms, especially among those who are on the front lines of this pandemic. 

“There’s no special treatment for anybody about testing, health care providers, anybody that works in the institution, everybody is treated the same based on symptoms,” Oppenhiem said. “The only time you stay home is if you are symptomatic, so if you were exposed and are completely asymptomatic, then you’re just going to monitor your temperature and continue to work.”

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People who think they may have been exposed to the virus should call their primary care physician. Individuals can also contact the Washtenaw County Health Department at 734-544-6700.

Reporter Brayden Hirsch can be reached at braydenh@umich.edu.