Brigham and Women's employees call for expanded testing as cases linked to COVID-19 cluster climb to nearly 50

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Employees at Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital are urging leadership to expand symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing as the hospital continues to battle a cluster of cases in two of its medical-surgical units, according to a letter obtained by WBZ-TV.

The letter, signed by Brigham and Women's staff and alumni, says employees are concerned they will unwittingly infect patients, and calls for "regular, convenient and free testing of asymptomatic staff."

"While this requires investment from the hospital, the overall cost is significantly lower than the financial consequences of non-intervention which has led to thousands of dollars lost per patient," employees and alumni wrote. "More importantly, patient and staff members' safety and health cannot be quantified."  

Employees and alumni go on to outline a specific stepwise proposal to expand asymptomatic and symptomatic testing, including increasing access and convenience for walk-in, optional, twice-weekly testing for staff and implementing required, universal nasal swab testing twice a week for all employees.

The letter comes as Brigham and Women's reported that 36 employees and 13 patients related to the cluster have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Oct. 1.

In a news release, the hospital said it has offered voluntary testing to staff who have worked on campus since Sept. 14, performed 7,210 tests on 6,718 employees since Sept. 25 and received 6,843 results. Thirty-six positive cases were linked to the cluster, one is not associated with the cluster and four are under investigation. 

As testing continues, Brigham and Women's expects it will continue to identify infected employees, but noted that overall prevalence rate of its non-cluster community is less than 0.1 percent, a fraction of the city and state rates.

Brigham and Women's added that all inpatients are routinely being tested for COVID-19, and testing is required for all patients upon admission.

The hospital said it also has facilitated testing for employees potentially affected by the cluster and "will continue to test those in the highest risk groups every three days."

The hospital will make asymptomatic testing available for employees through Oct. 18, "or as long as necessary to support our testing needs," and asymptomatic untested employees who have been working on the main campus since Sept. 14 have the option of getting tested, said Brigham and Women's.

 

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