UHS Adapts and Innovates in the Face of COVID-19

UHS staff member holds up a bag of supplies for healthy travels

May 13, 2020Following the transition to remote learning and working for the majority of UMass students and employees, University Health Services (UHS) has implemented many changes to ensure continuity of services for the reduced campus population, while keeping patients and staff as safe as possible. With the conclusion of the academic year, UHS’ leaders are looking ahead to Fall 2020. Preparations are underway to scale up testing for COVID-19 and antibodies in-house at the UHS laboratory.

New Safety Precautions

Since spring break, UHS has continued to provide medical care to students, UMass employees and other local patients. Before entering the building, patients are required to call ahead for screening by a health care provider to determine how UHS can best meet the patient’s needs. UHS has expanded its telehealth services, with providers on call to address a wide variety of health concerns over the phone. This has enabled UHS providers to care for patients who did not return to campus, as well as those on campus who do not need to be seen in-person. Patients who need to be seen at UHS are screened before entering the building for possible COVID-19 symptoms and exposure.

Testing for COVID-19

UHS serves UMass students, faculty and staff, along with their spouses, domestic partners and dependents, and that focus is reflected in COVID-19 testing that has been offered at UHS by appointment since mid-March.

The women’s health clinic on the ground floor of UHS has been converted into a respiratory clinic, including an outdoor testing tent, where patients with respiratory symptoms are seen by clinical staff in full personal protective equipment (PPE). Testing of patients with respiratory symptoms is conducted outdoors, either in the testing tent or with the patient sitting in their own car.

To date, Executive Director George Corey, M.D. says UHS has been able to meet the testing needs of what has been a significantly reduced campus community. As the university evaluates options for the fall semester, UHS will be a key planning partner in determining testing capabilities and protocols.

A Parting Gift for Students

On Friday, May 1, UHS staff assembled 500 “to-go” bags for UMass students preparing to depart campus, many of whom are international students. Each bag, distributed to students by Residential Life staff, was filled with hand sanitizer, disposable thermometer, lozenges, lip balm, bouillon, and instructions for staying healthy while traveling. “We wanted to let students know we are thinking of them as they depart campus,” says Jessica Conrad, FNP-BC, who proposed the project. “During this stressful time, some items to help stay safe when traveling are in short supply. These ‘to-go’ packages allowed UHS to give needed items to keep students and their fellow travelers safe. It seemed like the right thing to do and the UHS staff did a great job getting everything together very quickly.”