Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

In our desire to protect the health and safety of our community from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the college is providing some everyday health and preparedness steps that will help us prevent workplace and communal exposure to COVID-19.

Overview of COVID-19

 

In December 2019, Chinese officials confirmed cases of pneumonia associated with a “novel,” or new, strain of a type of virus called a “coronavirus.” Disease caused by this virus (COVID-19) has been reported in many countries, including the United States.

 

What is the source?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. More information about the source and spread of COVID-19 is available on the CDC’s Situation Summary: Source and Spread of the Virus.

 

What are the symptoms and complications?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

 

This virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. It’s not clear yet how easily COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person. More information about the source and spread of COVID-19 is available on the CDC’s Situation Summary: Source and Spread of the Virus.

 

How does the virus spread?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses.

 

Click here to visit the COVID-19 Data Visualization website >

Preventing Illness

 

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

What to do if you are sick

 

The situation is rapidly evolving and recommendations from the CDC and the U.S. Department of State change daily. Members of the Meharry Medical College (MMC) community are encouraged to monitor the CDC and U.S. Department of State websites.

 

Those who believe they may have been exposed to or infected with the novel coronavirus should seek medical care right away. Before you go to a clinic, doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

 

MMC faculty, staff and students should contact the Employee (Student) Health Center, for further evaluation.   The CDC has issued information regarding symptomsprevention and treatment, as well as a number of other frequently asked questions and answers.

 

All Meharry Medical Group (MMG) health care providers, including the Employee (Student) Health Center, will assess patients for potential COVID-19 infection. Those with cough and fever will be asked for a travel history to determine if they are at risk for the newly identified coronavirus. Patients who respond “yes” to these questions will be masked to protect other patients as the cause of their illness is being evaluated.

Will MMC remain open?

  • Yes, campus remains open.

 

What is the college doing to ensure teaching continues?

  • Based on current information, classes will continue without interruption. There will be constant monitoring of information form the CDC and the U.S. Department of State.
  • All didactic courses that do not have a lab component will be provided via an online/asynchronous format. Clinical rotations and labs will continue as usual.

 

Are campus events canceled?

  • Based on current information, classes will continue without interruption. There will be constant monitoring of information form the CDC and the U.S. Department of State.

 

What is MMC instructing those returning to the Unites States from heavily affected countries such as mainland China, South Korea, Iran and Italy to do?

  • Consistent with CDC guidance, MMC is instructing those community members to self-isolate for 14 days.

 

What are the instructions for those who may have been in contact with someone who has been infected, or exhibits symptoms consistent with, COVID- 19 infection?

  • Any individual who may have been in contact with someone who has been infected by COVID-19 or who exhibits symptoms consistent with, COVID-19 infection should self-isolate and notify the college in order to receive healthcare monitoring and support. For additional information on how to gauge your risk of COVID-19 infection, see the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html.

 

How is MMC assisting community members who self- isolate?

  • The college will work with students to minimize disruptions to their academic progress during the isolation period. Staff should contact the HR department to discuss how to find the appropriate solution so that they can self-isolate. Faculty should contact their dean to seek assistance while they must remain away from work. Postdocs should contact their dean and faculty advisor for assistance.

 

What office should I contact if I am worried about my health?

  • Those who believe they may have been exposed to or infected with the novel coronavirus should seek medical care right away. Before you go to a clinic, doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. MMC students should contact the Student Health Center, while faculty and staff should contact the Employee Health Clinic, for further evaluation.

 

I’m worried about someone who might be sick or might have been exposed to COVID- 19. What should I do?

  • If the person is a student, encourage them to consult with the Student Health Center. If they are a faculty or staff member, they should consult with the Employee Health Center. The CDC also advises that many of the same precautions recommended when protecting oneself against the flu, can help prevent COVID-19 infection.

 

Whom should I contact if I am feeling anxious, have experienced losses, or am struggling to cope and to come to terms with the impact of the COVID-19?

  • Students may contact their respective Dean’s office for support. Faculty and staff can reach out to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for assistance:
  • Toll Free Number: 1-800-523-5688
  • TTY Users: 1-800-456-4006

 

If I have experienced harassment or bias related to concerns about the virus, who should I contact?

  • MMC is committed to creating and sustaining a safe and inclusive campus community. Faculty, staff and students should not hesitate to contract the Office of General Counsel/Corporate Compliance Office or HR to file a report about such conduct.

 

Travel

What changes has Meharry made to faculty, staff and student travel abroad in light of the COVID-19 outbreak?

  • MMC is suspending all college-sponsored l travel until further notice.

 

What is considered “College-sponsored travel?”

College-sponsored travel includes, but is not limited to:

  • Travel on MMC-related business,
  • Travel that relates to an employee’s professional interests and positions, such as board or other professional organization roles,
  • Travel paid in full or in part by MMC,
  • Travel organized, endorsed and/or sponsored by MMC or organizations associated with MMC such as student clubs, or
  • Travel that involves academic credit granted by MMC.

 

Does this rule apply to personal travel?

  • The college strongly recommends that everyone reconsider even personal travel to any country with a CDC Level 3 or State Department Level 4 advisory based on the novel coronavirus.

Prospective Travelers (College and Personal)

 

MMC is suspending all college-sponsored travel until further notice. *Any travel that is covered by or reimbursable from college funds is considered college sponsored.

 

The college strongly recommends that everyone reconsider even personal travel abroad at this time. Anyone returning from international travel will be required to self-isolate for 14 days before returning campus.

 

The list of affected countries and the warning level is dynamic. We encourage you to monitor developments through the State Department and CDC websites.

 

International travel is more difficult than usual as a result of COVID-19.  Due to public health measures, travelers may encounter delays or other difficulties at the U.S. port of entry or at the port of entry of another country. Travelers should also ensure they have adequate health insurance coverage for the duration of their trip.

 

 

Conference / Meeting Cancellations

 

Some MMC travelers are reporting that conferences and meetings for which they planned travel are being canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.

 

Many airlines have altered flight schedules and capacity to highly affected areas for both domestic and international destinations. Some have begun to offer refund/booking options.

Returning Travelers

 

Consistent with CDC guidance, Meharry is instructing all community members and visitors returning to the United States from mainland China, South Korea, Iran and Italy to self-isolate for 14 days.

 

Any individual who may have been in contact with someone who has been infected by COVID-19 or who exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection should also self-isolate.

 

Additionally, those who need to self-isolate should notify the college in order to receive health care monitoring and support and to protect the health and safety of our community.

 

The self-isolation guidance may change quickly, so please stay informed.  For additional information on how to gauge your risk of COVID-19 infection, see the CDC website.

 

The college will work with students to minimize disruptions to their academic progress during the isolation period.

 

Important details regarding self-isolation procedures:

  • Faculty, staff and students:  All should contact their dean or supervisor to seek assistance while they must remain away from work or academic studies.
  • Campus Residents: Campus residents who have traveled to China, South Korea, Iran or Italy within the past 14 days should self-isolate and contact Campus Housing at least 72 hours prior to their arrival on campus.

The Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer resources for you to stay current. See the following for the latest status and recommendations.

  • Department of Health website
  • COVID-19 Public Information Hotline: (877) 857-2945, available daily, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

 

CDC information for:

 

If you are an MMC/MMG employee or patient with fever, cough or shortness of breath and are concerned about the coronavirus, call (615)327-6093 to be assessed.

 

On Campus

Those with questions or concerns about coronavirus infection should contact the following:

 

Support for the Meharry Community

Services are available to support mental health and well-being during this time.

 

Other Resources

FOR MMC/MMG PATIENTS AND EMPLOYEES

What to do if you are concerned you are ill with COVID-19

 

MMG patients with respiratory illnesses seeking more information about possible COVID-19 infection should call (615) 327-6348 from 7 a.m.-5 p.m.  After hours please call 615.327.MD4U.

 

MMG employees with respiratory illnesses seeking more information about possible COVID-19 infection should call (615) 327-6093.

 

Before calling, please consider that if you do not have symptoms and would not ordinarily see your doctor based on how you feel now, you do not need evaluation or testing for COVID-19.

 

At this time, MMG clinicians will not assess patients for COVID-19 who are not exhibiting symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.

 

If you do go to a clinic with fever, cough or shortness of breath, please call ahead so that our staff can meet you with a mask for your safety and the safety of other patients and our staff.

Latest information and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/index.html

Meharrians:

 

As we find ourselves in uncharted territory in the wake of COVID-19, it is understandable there may be concerns about HIPAA compliance and the COVID-19 pandemic.  There may be confusion about what information can be shared about an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, those suspected of exposure to the virus, and those with whom data can be shared. Please be reminded that the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules still apply.  The Security Rule is in place to ensure the security of patients’ protected health information (PHI) and requires safeguards to be implemented to protect disclosure.  

 

However, effective March 15, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a limited HIPAA waiver intended to relax the following Privacy Rules:

  • The requirements to obtain a patient’s agreement to speak with family members or friends involved in the patient’s care – 45 CFR 164.510(b)
  • The requirement to honor a request to opt-out of the facility directory – 45 CFR 164.510(a);
  • The requirement to distribute a notice of privacy practices – 45 CFR 164.520
  • The patient’s right to request privacy restrictions – 45 CFR 164.522(a)
  • The patient’s right to request confidential communications – 45 CFR 164.522(b)

 

So, what does this mean?  The HIPAA waiver allows disclosure of PHI, as it relates to the COVID-19, without first receiving authorization from a patient for treatment purposes.  It is also permissible to share PHI with public health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others responsible for ensuring the safety of the public, such as state and local health departments.  Finally, disclosures of PHI is permitted to prevent and lessen a serious and imminent threat to a specific person or the public.  A provider should use their discretion and professional judgment when determining whom to notify (i.e., staff, leadership, patient’s family) if a patient tests positive for COVID-19 about the nature and the severity of the threat.  

 

The HIPAA waiver is applicable for a period of 72 hours from the time the COVID-19 protocol is implemented and only applies to health-related matters associated with COVID-19.  

 

As we strive to provide superior patient care during this rapidly changing environment, let us not forget our continuous obligation to patient rights.

 

If you have any questions or concerns related to the limited HIPAA waiver, please contact the Compliance and Risk Management office at 615.327.6780 or compliance@mmc.edu.