April 2, 2020

Dr. Jeff Balser with an Update on VUMC’s COVID-19 Response


Hi, everyone.

Like many areas of the country, we are seeing increasing numbers of coronavirus cases.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

Over the past week, the number of cases in Davidson County has increased by 50%. To-date, about 50 coronavirus patients have been admitted to VUMC, and nearly 20 have been discharged. How bad the storm gets depends almost entirely on how effective our social distancing plans are in Nashville. Mayor Cooper has announced a more stringent Safer at Home order for Monday. We are encouraging other cities and counties to take these steps.

Many patients are frustrated by the time it takes to receive an answer when we test them for coronavirus. The supplies needed to perform the test are the challenge. By necessity, we’re prioritizing the limited reagents we can obtain at VUMC for testing patients admitted to our hospitals, and for testing our front-line care providers. We get those answers in less than 24 hours.

We are still seeing about 500 people every day at our assessment centers all over the region, and we’re testing 80% of those who come. We send many of those tests to outside companies, and the waiting periods are longer. For high-risk patients, we are reaching out with a telehealth visit even while the test is pending. And for all who test positive, we reach out with guidance and care.

Protection of our front-line care providers is paramount. This week, Dr. Pinson provided updated guidance on wearing masks more broadly. To make this possible, our supply chain team has worked around the clock to bolster our PPE supplies. We extended the use of disposable surgical masks in clinical care settings, along with updated guidance about how to obtain and use cloth masks.

We are aware that some hospitals in our community have announced furloughs. We are doing the opposite — we’re expanding our workforce. We are doing so to meet the needs of Middle Tennessee, and to better support you as the demand for our care grows. We are rapidly hiring nurses and other front-line care providers to support our clinical teams. And our Manpower Command Center is working to supply as many as 700 registered nurses from within VUMC to serve alongside our inpatient nursing workforce. In addition, more than 500 people have responded to our community appeal for temporary positions to bolster our nurse staffing and support.

We have been closely watching other cities that have been hit hard by the virus. We’re learning from their experiences and will continue to implement the very best practices for managing our supplies, caring for our patients and — most importantly — protecting and supporting you.

The work that we are doing here at Vanderbilt is critical. Thank you for being all in to care for our patients.

Please continue to take care of yourself and I’ll see you again soon.