American Thoracic Society (ATS)

Establish Contingency Plans to Meet COVID-19 Surge in Urban Areas, Say Experts at Leading Academic Medical Center

Newswise — April 21, 2020 – In “Mobilization and Preparation of a Large Urban Academic Center During the COVID-19 Pandemic,”– published online in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society – experts from Philadelphia’s Temple University Hospital share their contingency plans for meeting an increased demand for hospitalization, as well as their protocols and training plans to minimize health care staff exposure to COVID-19 and ensure proper active and reserve staffing.

“Logistical deficiencies can stress the health care system, but with adequate preparation, we hope to reduce COVID-19 mortality by  ensuring that the standard of care is preserved despite the increase in health care utilization,” said first author Junad M. Chowdhury, MD, pulmonary disease & critical care medicine fellow, Division of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery, Temple University Hospital.  “In addition, efforts to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 to patients, visitors and essential health care providers through early detection, isolation and triaging must be emphasized.”

The situation the team faced was especially challenging, as the medical center is located in a medically underserved area and ICU beds are typically at 80-90 percent of capacity during normal operations. 

Following is a brief overview (discussed in detail here) of the plan Dr. Chowdhury and colleagues developed to address these challenges. Staff training on safety measures was started immediately after the outbreak.  An infection control committee drafted PPE protocols, while simulation exercises were conducted on advanced cardiac life support and rapid response. All staff are required to report symptoms online and to have their temperature monitored before and after shifts.

Based on learnings from the COVID outbreak in Wuhan, China, the authors created a screening protocol to stratify patients based on their risk of virus transmission. Inpatients are monitored for COVID-related changes and screened.   Patients requiring rapid responses or having cardiac arrest are immediately transferred to the COVID unit, if COVID is suspected.

The authors noted, “Initially, all SARS-CoV-2 tests were sent to a third-party diagnostics company, which had a 4-5 day turnaround time. This resulted in an inappropriate use of PPE, delay of discharge of non-COVID patients and ultimately an increase in our total census. We developed our own in-house testing, which yielded results in 5-10 hours.”  This enabled the team to more effectively triage and discharge patients efficiently.    

The team determined that three units were necessary:  an isolation unit separate from the main hospital, a unit designated for patients with low probability of COVID infection, and a third unit that functioned as an outpatient COVID screening unit. 

Contingency planning included: creating designated backup units, mobilizing ventilators from smaller satellite campuses, asking staff who were not performing essential inpatient services to remain at home on reserve for staffing shortages, creation and enforcement of a strict no-visitor policy, and plans for conservation of PPE and disinfection of solid objects such as phones, glasses and pens. 

Dr. Chowdhury and colleagues also developed COVID-specific admission protocols.  These covered isolation precautions, specimen collection, imaging and laboratory testing.  Once admitted, patients are kept in airborne/droplet isolation and contact isolation until SARS-CoV-2 is ruled out; patients are kept in various states of isolation if they are at varying levels of risk or have a confirmed COVID diagnosis, while COVID-positive patients whose symptoms improve are discharged to home quarantine.

On discharge, close follow-up is done to help assure pandemic mitigation.  Discharged COVID-19 positive patients are provided with an online portal, where they are required to log in daily to report their symptoms, and are asked to remain in mandatory quarantine for 14 days.  Follow-up with these patients is continued for a month, and then again at three and six months. If they are symptomatic, additional tests are ordered.

The hospital’s lung center converted all in-person outpatient appointments to telemedicine visits.  All telemedicine patients are asked COVID screening questions when their appointments are made.

As a teaching hospital with a large pulmonary disease and critical care program, program leadership and fellows have worked together to continue lectures, conferences and research meetings via teleconference. Trainees have gained autonomy, experience and knowledge during the pandemic that they would have difficulty obtaining if a pandemic was not in effect.

In conclusion, the authors stated: “Our protocols aim to provide a roadmap for other institutions in the U.S. to deal with this crisis optimally. With COVID-19 essentially a call to arms, we made infrastructural adjustments to identify and triage those with suspected COVID-19 infection, optimize and reconfigure hospital operations to confront the current pandemic, curb viral spread and avoid excessive exposure to the immunocompromised.  All institutions should have protocols and measures to mitigate the transmission of the novel coronavirus, while also utilizing available resources appropriately.”

Share via Twitter: In preparing for #COVID-19 cases, develop roadmap and protocols to mitigate and protect, says major urban academic medical center. @atscommunity @ATSBlueEditor

About the Annals of the American Thoracic Society

The AnnalsATS is a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Thoracic Society. The Journal delivers up-to-date and authoritative coverage of adult and pediatric pulmonary and respiratory sleep medicine and adult critical care. The scope of the Journal encompasses content that is applicable to clinical practice, the formative and continuing education of clinical specialists and the advancement of public health. The journal’s impact factor is 4.026.


Editor: Colin Cooke, MD, MS, associate professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.


About the American Thoracic Society

Founded in 1905, the American Thoracic Society is the world's leading medical association dedicated to advancing pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The Society’s 15,000 members prevent and fight respiratory disease around the globe through research, education, patient care and advocacy. The ATS publishes four journals, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, the Annals of the American Thoracic Society and ATS Scholar.


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 3699
Released: 19-Oct-2020 4:20 PM EDT
Patients Who Had More Severe Covid-19 May Be the Best Donors for Convalescent Plasma Therapy
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Sex, age, and severity of disease may be useful in identifying COVID-19 survivors who are likely to have high levels of antibodies that can protect against the disease.

access_time Embargo lifts in 2 days
Embargo will expire: 20-Oct-2020 10:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 19-Oct-2020 4:05 PM EDT

A reporter's PressPass is required to access this story until the embargo expires on 20-Oct-2020 10:00 AM EDT The Newswise PressPass gives verified journalists access to embargoed stories. Please log in to complete a presspass application. If you have not yet registered, please Register. When you fill out the registration form, please identify yourself as a reporter in order to advance to the presspass application form.

Released: 19-Oct-2020 3:05 PM EDT
Experts haven’t changed their estimates for COVID-19 immunity duration, despite Trump's claim

We rate this claim as mostly false. Infectious disease experts did not shift from saying immunity was lifelong to saying it lasted only a few months for partisan reasons. Experts haven’t changed their estimates for immunity duration, which remains unknown. Most agree that it is not a "life-time".

Newswise: 246157_web.jpg
Released: 19-Oct-2020 1:50 PM EDT
CBD helps reduce lung damage from COVID by increasing levels of protective peptide
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

One way CBD appears to reduce the "cytokine storm" that damages the lungs and kills many patients with COVID-19 is by enabling an increase in levels of a natural peptide called apelin, which is known to reduce inflammation and whose levels are dramatically reduced in the face of this storm.

Released: 19-Oct-2020 1:35 PM EDT
Fear of COVID-19 raises risk of depression among Soweto's deprived communities
Cambridge University Press

A STUDY into the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the mental health of people in Soweto has found a significant link between symptoms of depression and how likely people felt they were to be infected.

Released: 19-Oct-2020 1:25 PM EDT
Coronavirus Test Results Are Faster but Still Too Slow For Contract Tracing, National Survey Says
Rutgers University-New Brunswick

The average test times for coronavirus results have fallen from four days in April to 2.7 days in September, but results are still too slow for effective contact tracing, according to a new nationwide survey led by researchers from Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Northeastern, Harvard and Northwestern universities.

Newswise: 246236_web.jpg
Released: 19-Oct-2020 1:15 PM EDT
Researchers investigate impact of COVID-19 on BAME businesses
Staffordshire University

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) businesses have had to incur considerable costs to protect their businesses through lockdown, according to academics at Staffordshire University.

Released: 19-Oct-2020 1:05 PM EDT
Criteria to predict cytokine storm in COVID-19 patients identified by Temple Researchers
Temple University Health System

Like a cold front that moves in, setting the stage for severe weather, coronavirus infection triggers showers of infection-fighting immune molecules - showers that sometimes escalate into a chaotic immune response known as a cytokine storm.

Newswise: 246249_web.jpg
Released: 19-Oct-2020 12:55 PM EDT
COVID-19 pandemic has dramatic impact on osteoporosis management, finds new global study
International Osteoporosis Foundation

A new study published prior to World Osteoporosis Day finds that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely affected management of non-communicable diseases, is markedly impacting the management of osteoporosis as judged by access to online FRAX fracture risk assessments.

Showing results

110 of 3699