Note: Some submitted questions are still being sourced for the correct answer and this page will be updated as questions are answered.

Watch the Nov. 20 Town Hall

Earlier this year, we set up the Greater Columbus Convention Center to accommodate COVID patients. Will this space be reactivated again?

There are plans in place to open the convention center should it be needed, but in contrast to the spring, we have had more time to prepare alternate ways to expand our capacity within our own walls without needing to go to this step. Similarly, each health system in town is working on ways to help one another in order to prevent the need for a regional overflow care center. A great example of this is the recent change to allow us to send young adult patients to Nationwide Children’s Hospital to make way for more bed availability for adult patients at our hospitals.

Exactly how many rapid tests are available daily?

Because the tests are run on site and need to be run within an hour of collecting the sample, we have to limit the number we can do per hour. There are also a limited number of machines to process the collected specimen. PCR tests that go to the lab offer more flexibility on how many can be collected, but they take a little longer to get the result. For the first week, in which we had limited staff to run the tests, we had to proceed with a lower cap. As of the afternoon on Nov. 23, we increased our hourly cap from 6 to 12 tests per hour, which should greatly improve accessibility for our employees. 

What is the false positive rate for the saliva test given to students compared to the nasal or pharyngeal swabs?

All three methods for specimen collection that utilize PCR for COVID-19 detection are very sensitive and have very low false positive rates.

Will having MyChart help me get COVID results faster? Or help me sign up for a vaccine when one is available?

The fastest way to receive test results is using MyChart. With a MyChart account, you will be able to view your test results as soon as they are released, instead of needing to wait for a phone call from your provider. 

With the increased need for testing, will the testing hours and days be expanded? Will there be holiday testing?

Starting on Sunday, Dec. 6, we are expanding our hours to include Sundays, 8 a.m. to noon. You can view the testing center holiday hours here.

If we develop symptoms after noon on a Saturday but have clinical responsibilities on Monday, is there a way to get tested on Saturday afternoon or Sunday?

Starting on Sunday, Dec. 6, we are expanding our hours to include Sundays, 8 a.m. to noon.

Can family members of employees get tested?

Household members can be tested. It should be used specifically when…

  • The household member (family or not) requires a COVID-19 test for symptoms, and
  • Awaiting the result of that test is keeping the employee from returning to work

The patient should ask specifically for the rapid test indicating their household member is an Ohio State employee whose ability to return to work hinges upon a quick test result.

  • To schedule, call 614-293-7829.
  • Please notify the scheduler that you are an employee or household member of a medical center employee.
  • Your drive-thru appointment for the rapid test will take place at the Ohio State Fairgrounds Testing Center.
  • Daily capacity is limited and contingent upon available testing equipment and supplies.

Can you update us on the current definition of an exposure?

Exposure in the community is defined as:

  • Within 6 feet, longer than a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.
  • Per CDC and public health guidelines, close contact is considered regardless of mask use. Please click here for CDC’s explanation. Note, though, that data shows that masks provide protection to both the person wearing the mask and those around them.
  • The period of exposure starts 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or date of test, if asymptomatic) for the positive individual.

Exposure at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is defined as:

  • Within 6 feet, longer than a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period and no mask.
  • The period of exposure starts 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or date of test, if asymptomatic) for the positive individual.
  • The use of an isolation mask instead of an N95 or respirator during an AGP doesn’t meet the requirement to quarantine.
  • Staff will be asked to continue to monitor for symptoms, but they can continue to work.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have completed your quarantine, what are the guidelines for exposures? Is it 90 days assumed immunity?

In most cases, the CDC does not recommend a repeat quarantine if a person has a new exposure if they meet the following criteria:

Duration and strength of immunity has not been confirmed, but based on available data, reinfection is unlikely within 3 months/90 days of initial diagnosis.

  • Have recovered from SARS-CoV-2 and met isolation discontinuation criteria
  • Are within the first 3 months following symptom onset or initial test, if asymptomatic
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the new exposure

There seems to be a lot of confusion about quarantine (community vs. in the health care setting). I am told that no quarantine is needed if you wear your hospital-grade mask at work and someone at work is positive.

  • Exposure at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is defined as:
    • Within 6 feet, longer than a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period and no mask.
    • The period of exposure starts 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or date of test, if asymptomatic) for the positive individual.
    • The use of an isolation mask instead of an N95 or respirator during an AGP doesn’t meet the requirement to quarantine. Staff will be asked to continue to monitor for symptoms, but they can continue to work.

Can you clarify for staff the difference between quarantine needed from health care exposure and from community exposure?

Exposure in the community is defined as:

  • Within 6 feet, longer than a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.
  • Per CDC and public health guidelines, close contact is considered regardless of mask use.
  • Please click here for CDC’s explanation. Note, though, that data shows that masks provide protection to both the person wearing the mask and those around them.
  •  The period of exposure starts 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or date of test, if asymptomatic) for the positive individual.

Exposure at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is defined as:

  • Within 6 feet, longer than a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period and no mask.
  • The period of exposure starts 48 hours prior to symptom onset (or date of test, if asymptomatic) for the positive individual.
  • The use of an isolation mask instead of an N95 or respirator during an AGP doesn’t meet the requirement to quarantine. Staff will be asked to continue to monitor for symptoms, but they can continue to work.

If you are with a patient closer than 6 feet away and for more than a cumulative 15 minutes, but the patient is masked and the health care worker is masked and wearing eyewear, that is safe? But if you are in a team room and both health care workers are wearing masks but not eye protection, is close contact (less than 6 feet and for more than 15 minutes) when one of those two become positive for COVID-19?

Yes, please see our “Which Mask Do I Use?” document for guidance on what type of mask is required.  Eye protection is required only while providing direct patient care for all patients, regardless of COVID-19 status.

Please discuss where we are with vaccine planning.

The vaccination plan will be a major topic of focus at the next Town Hall on Dec. 3, 2020. Click here to register for the Dec. 3 Town Hall.

Can we get more seating for meals at the outpatient buildings?

The ambulatory leadership team will address this wherever needed. Please notify your building manager and Garth Dahdah with this request.

Have the visitor policies changed?

Yes, the visitor policy has recently changed, and we may have more changes as the surge persists. You can always find the most updated details of the policy at here.

I am extremely worried about resilience of hospital workers. What are you doing on-site to make in-house folks feel supported, since we are restricted to support them with anything due to limitations on use of funds? What are you doing to handle the burnout rate of frontline staff?

We have a multitude of resources available for our faculty and staff. Please share these with your colleagues:

  • Live Well. Be Well. HealthBeat HUB Channel
  • Faculty and staff can access support resources through the Ohio State Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 1-800-678-6265.
  • The Stress, Trauma And Resilience (STAR) team at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center offers free, confidential, one-on-one phone support at 614-293-STAR. STAR also has a Resilience Webinar Series for health care providers to explore the impact of stress and to offer practical skills you can use to maintain resilience in the face of adverse challenges.
  • Beginning Dec. 1, STAR will provide four sessions per week of its Daily Boost virtual support group for health care professionals.
  • STAR provides myriad coping tips for dealing with the extra stress of COVID-19.
  • You can find these and many other employee well-being resources as part of our employee resources COVID-19 site.

What is the procedure for requiring quarantine for employees that have already utilized their pandemic leave?

Employees are eligible to use up to 80 hours of pandemic leave for themselves and/or family members, and the total number of hours for pandemic leave is capped at 80 hours. Once pandemic leave is exhausted, you can use your accrued sick, vacation or comp time. You will be able to submit a time-off request through Kronos or eLeave (for COM/OHS). Unpaid leave may also be an option if all other leave is exhausted. Short-term and long-term disability benefits/income replacement may be applicable depending upon the length of illness.

How can I ask to work from 100% of the time if my job is able to do so? What if your department leadership hasn't instructed you to work from home even though you have the capabilities to do so?

Employees who are interested in working remotely or changing their remote work schedule should reach out to their manager to discuss opportunities. Contact your HR business partner or Employee and Labor Relations for assistance, as needed.

We are encouraged to work from home if possible, yet we some staff are considered essential and required to be at the hospital, even though they are not seeing patients every day.

Because our hospitals never close, all Health System and James Cancer Hospital employees are deemed essential. This includes employees who are working remotely due to the pandemic and the need to de-densify our environment. During an emergency, individuals may be asked to assist in areas where they do not normally work to respond to staffing shortages in critical areas.

Are we looking at a chance for having to furlough employees?

Unlike many hospitals across the country, the Wexner Medical Center has been fortunate to not have to furlough, layoff or cut the salaries of our faculty and staff. While we will continue to be financially prudent not knowing what the future holds and the long-term impact of the pandemic, there are no plans to furlough employees at this time.

How will the Ohio State daycare centers (main & Nisonger) be impacted in terms of availability during this surge period?

We are continuing to implement our health and safety protocols in each building. In addition, one thing that we have implemented with the assistance of Dr. Thomas and Wexner Medical Center staff is bi-weekly COVID-19 testing for all child care staff.

A lot of us have children in daycare and school. Can anyone speak to the positivity rates or occurrences in children? Should we be concerned about exposures from children? Should we be concerned for our children?

As COVID-19 positivity rates have been increasing in the community over the last few weeks, rates among children have also been increasing. The largest percentage of positive cases are seen in the 12- to 17-year-old age group, and the vast majority of pediatric patients remain outpatient and do not require hospitalization. COVID-19 transmission occurs with close contact (less than 6 feet apart for >15 minutes)  to someone, including children, who has COVID-19, with transmission frequently occurring among household contacts. Public health has reported that classrooms in general are safe with 6-foot social distancing, masking and other preventive measures.

What is the current status of need for surge staffing, and how will residents be utilized in filling this need?

At this time, our clinical staffing is fairly stable. However, as we see additional patient volumes and may have to open more capacity to meet the demand, we anticipate reaching out to staff who work in non-clinical areas for additional support.

The participation of residents will be monitored by the Graduate Medical Education Office and Scott Holliday, MD. Consideration will be made under the Physician Workforce Team led by Arick Forrest, MD. Any use of residents for surge activity will be requested through the Physician Workforce Team and then approved by program directors and Dr. Holliday.

What can be done to ensure that ALL employees wear their masks appropriately?

We all need to help professionally hold one another accountable. Ongoing communications about our universal masking requirement continue to be sent, and reminders are shared at various meetings. 

Masks are readily available. If there are any issues obtaining a mask, please contact your manager. Education is available on the COVID-19 Resources website, along with donning and doffing training videos. We encourage managers to continue to remind staff of all of our strategies (e.g. daily health check, eye protection for patient care, not working while sick, etc.), including masking. 

Will COVID-negative hospitalized patients who are capable be required to wear masks?

  • Masks should be worn by all hospitalized patients anytime they are in a room with other people, anytime someone comes into their room and anytime they leave their patient room, unless they have a contraindication.
  • Patients can remove the mask if they are alone in their patient room. If they are sharing a room with another patient and the curtain is pulled across the room, they can remove their mask if no care providers are in the room.

As a health system has there been any discussion of how we will support our patients and staff on holidays with no visitors being permitted for inpatients?

During times of restricted visitation, it is particularly important that we help patients connect virtually with their loved ones either by ensuring the phones in patient rooms are available and within reach of patients, use of MyChart Bedside tablets, or the patient’s own device.  Also, engaging chosen family members during joint RN/Physician rounds can be helpful to ensure families are connected and informed to extend the patient wishes.  As we have each year, the Patient Experience Department will be overseeing a gift distribution to all patients on December 18th. 

What are we doing to make sure our own employees feel safe?

We are constantly assessing the support that we provide to our workforce to ensure that we have the appropriate resources available at the right time. We have respite resources, food resources, childcare and even housekeeping support. You can find information about burnout, resiliency, mindfulness and much more on HealthBeat HUB. We will continue to provide support and resources to care for your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Please discuss any travel restrictions for faculty and staff — in particular, out of state and out of country.

Please visit the university’s website on travel (https://safeandhealthy.osu.edu/travel) for current guidance.

Do you expect to see PPE shortage again?

Our PPE supply is currently well-stocked, and our team has built reserve inventory for surges. However, PPE shortages may occur again if global demand on health care systems stays at high levels for extended periods of time, as the overall supply chain has not returned to a normal state.

Our supply chain team monitors and tracks PPE daily, checks in regularly with suppliers to assess their status of manufacturing, and reviews supply strategies weekly to accommodate changes in the global supply. We will continue to grow our reserves, but medical center staff can assist in our efforts to conserve PPE by using only what is necessary, by being diligent in placing used N95s in the collection bins for re-sterilization, and by being flexible when alternatives are in use. 

Please clarify if employees working remotely need to track their temperature daily. I think there are conflicting opinions on this.

Employees who are working remotely do not need to track their daily temperature. If you plan to come into campus for any reason, you are required to take your temperature prior to arrival.

How can we have Buckeye Paws visit our unit?

You can request a visit by emailing buckeyepaws@osumc.edu.

Is there any update/guidance for research staff regarding clinical research? Are there any plans to change clinical research activities?

We are actively working with clinical research leadership to ensure both staff and subject safety are closely monitored.

In response to the university’s State of Emergency and requests to engage in research related to COVID-19, the Wexner Medical Center, College of Medicine and the OSUCCC — James have developed a COVID-19 Basic, Translational, and Clinical Research Policy to track and guide requests to engage in COVID-related research. Click here to learn more about submitting research plans via REDCap.

What is the plan for medical students being able to complete needed rotations for graduation?

We have a university-approved plan in place that continues to allow for our health science students to continue their experiential learning in the clinical setting.

Is there any plan for fourth-year medical students to be called in as part of the workforce and graduate early?

Medical students have requirements that they must meet before they can graduate. Several students were able to graduate early this past year and, if the need arises again this spring, we will evaluate early graduate options then. We are creating opportunities for health science students to work in various settings to assist with operations.