Harborview, UW Medical Centers testing all new inpatients for COVID-19

Apr 14, 2020, 2:30 PM
UW Medicine, coronavirus, Harborview...
UW Medicine workers. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

If you’re going in for a procedure that will require a stay at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Montlake or Northwest locations, or at Harborview Medical Center, you can expect to be tested for COVID-19.

After a pilot period, UW Medicine is now implementing mandatory testing in these hospitals for all arriving inpatients.

Harborview infectious disease physician Dr. Chloe Bryson-Cahn said that already, UW Medicine hospitals had been conducting screenings that set a very low threshold for who could receive a coronavirus test, extending tests to those who showed very mild symptoms or even, in some cases, no symptoms at all. This new system takes advantage of the Seattle area’s medical resources, ensuring that every patient staying overnight is swabbed for COVID-19.

“In areas like Seattle where we have incredible access to testing, I think doing things like this to try to learn more about our local epidemiology, and then being able to share this information with the rest of the country and the rest of the world is how we play our part,” Bryson-Cahn said.

UW Medicine opens drive-through coronavirus testing facility in Northgate

It takes just eight hours for test results to come back, thanks to the quick work of the UW Virology Lab. Because the turnaround time is so short, only those with clear coronavirus symptoms are isolated during the waiting period.

The hope is that the increased testing will catch some asymptomatic carriers who may be spreading the virus without realizing it.

“If we catch any, and are able to keep other people safer because of it, I think it’s worth it,” Bryson-Cahn said.

She said “every single hospital system in the country has health care workers who have contracted COVID,” but because of the great access to testing, thousands of UW Medicine health care workers have been tested. The new inpatient testing will help that effort even more.

“This is just another step that we get to take to keep our health care workers in the hospital and our other patients safe from infection,” Bryson-Cahn said.

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Harborview, UW Medical Centers testing all new inpatients for COVID-19