Clinical Care Resources

April 07, 2020

April 7 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

As of today, a new training website for practicing clinical care during COVID-19 is live. Created by the Penn Medicine COVID-19 Learning Committee, the site provides up-to-date resources via multiple educational modalities, including slide decks, video recordings, click-through scenarios, just-in-time learning references, live teleconference office hours, one-page summaries, pocket cards, curated literature, and links to relevant external resources. It is designed to prepare providers and staff for redeployment assignments in new clinical settings. (No Penn Medicine network access is required; however, some material will require a PennKey login to access.) 

The Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy has announced the launch of Ethics, Policy, and COVID-19, a collection of free online resources that features faculty expertise on timely issues and insights. To access the collection, you can sign up at this link.

There are a few other important pieces of information I want to share with you today. Social and physical distancing remains crucial in our fight against the virus. To emphasize this point, a study in Iceland found that about 50 percent of its positive cases are asymptomatic, which means that you may be a carrier even if you do not show typical COVID-19 symptoms.

Apart from social and physical distancing, many of you still have questions about masks, especially about wearing either N95 or surgical masks. When some of us choose to wear an N95 mask while others are wearing a surgical mask, it gives the false impression that some are better protected from this virus than others. This creates anxiety and fear, leading those around us to function less effectively. That is why I want to share with you the following message from Dr. Jerry Jacobs, Director of Infection Prevention at Good Shepherd Penn Partners:

1) The main benefit of universal masking in hospitals is that the mask is preventing droplets from an infected person’s mouth or nose from getting into the environment and infecting someone else. This means that the main purpose of wearing a mask is not to protect you from other people, but to protect other people from you. A surgical mask, unlike an N95, is made specifically for this purpose.

2) It is true that the mask may offer some benefit in preventing us from inhaling infected droplets from another person. However, unless an infected person is near you and coughing in your face, an N95 does not offer additional protection over a surgical mask.

3) It is also important to note that the virus is transmitted by touching things around us that have the virus on it, and then touching our face. If you are wearing an N95 mask, and especially if you have not been fit tested for it, there is a strong possibility that you are touching your face more to adjust the mask, and therefore increasing your risk of infection.

Finally, I also want to share an inspiring video message from Kevin Mahoney, UPHS CEO, to all of us at Penn Medicine. In the video, he reminds us that Penn Medicine has proudly led American health care for centuries and today we are standing together to defeat coronavirus.

Please continue to take care of yourselves because we are here for each other.

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine