Leaders provide updates on novel coronavirus monitoring

February 06, 2020

Editor's Note: On Feb. 5, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., and Nebraska Medicine CEO Jim Linder, M.D., sent the memo below to all UNMC faculty, staff, students and Nebraska Medicine colleagues in an effort to keep everyone informed about national and local response to the novel coronavirus that originated in China. Later this morning, we will host a joint news conference to answer public questions about the response. You can watch live at 10:30 a.m. CST via Facebook Live.

Memo from Drs. Gold and Linder

Members of the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine community,

You have no doubt heard about the potential of the federal government evacuating hundreds of Americans from China and bringing them back to the U.S. for medical monitoring because they have been in an area where the novel coronavirus has been found. Today, our partners in the federal government are announcing that a number of those rescued Americans will be coming to Nebraska. Details surrounding the expected time of arrival and number of people coming have yet to be confirmed. The plan calls for the group to spend their two-week monitoring period at Camp Ashland, a Nebraska National Guard facility. The group will be staying there under the auspices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR). These passengers will arrive at Eppley Airfield in a remote and isolated aircraft parking area and will NOT be inside the Eppley Airfield terminal. The arrival of the flight will have no impact on Omaha passengers, and flight operations at Eppley Airfield will remain normal and unaffected.

Before sharing more details about our role, we need to make one thing very clear: No one in the group is showing signs or symptoms of infection. They are being screened before they leave China, again at an intermediate stop, and again before they get off the plane in Omaha. They are coming here so they can be observed, and, if symptoms present, be treated by one of the best infectious disease teams in the world. Again, UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will have an important part to play in the response to a global infectious disease outbreak. If any of these Americans develop physical signs or symptoms of infection, they would be cared for by our experts along with partners from the CDC, using all appropriate safety precautions, at an appropriate location at the Nebraska Medical Center.

Situations like this often breed rumor and speculation. We are sharing this with each of you so that you will have accurate information. Please remember the following:

  • These are our fellow Americans.
  • They are not showing any signs or symptoms of infection.
  • They would be in Nebraska for observation -- they are not patients.
  • We are not activating the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit or any inpatient unit at this time.
  • If anyone becomes sick, our world-class care givers, staff, and facilities are here for them.
  • We are supporting federal health officials with our expertise.

An updated questions-and-answers page is available at NebraskaMed.com

Our organization has answered the global health emergency call before. In the last five years, we have been busy teaching other health care professionals around the world, developing new approaches to care, conducting research, and putting what we learned into practice. To summarize, we are part of a global response to this illness. Along with our federal partners, we have the right people for this job. We can help monitor the health of these Americans safely and effectively. There is no better place for them to be. We know we will be among the many thousands of Nebraskans who welcome this group for what will hopefully be a short stay in our area before they can return safely home.

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Lisa Spellman
February 06, 2020 at 7:45 AM

Way to go UNMC and Nebraska Medicine and all of those individuals involved in responding to this global health emergency. You answer a higher calling without hesitation. Proud to be part of an organization that cares and steps up when it is needed!