2020: The Front Line

Answering the Nation's Call

When the United States government called upon UNMC and Nebraska Medicine to help American citizens during the pandemic, they responded–just as they did in 2014 when they cared for patients with Ebola in the National Biocontainment Unit. This time, the med center helped monitor – at Camp Ashland – 57 Americans who had been working in the Wuhan area of China, where the virus was first reported.

At a Feb. 6 press conference: “I am not a Nebraskan by birth, I am a Nebraskan by choice, and days like this make me incredibly proud to be a Nebraskan and to be an American.”

Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD

Feb. 6 press conference about the coronavirus

On Feb. 6, media crowded into a room inside the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center to learn more about the local response to the coronavirus. From left to right, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD; Eric Kasowski, MD, quarantine Ashland team lead, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general Nebraska National Guard; James Lawler, MD, executive director, International Programs and Innovation, Global Center for Health Security, UNMC; Shelly Schwedhelm, executive director, Emergency Management and Biopreparedness, Nebraska Medicine; and Capt. Dana Hall, regional administrator, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Soon afterward, the med center treated its first cases of COVID-19 when 13 passengers on the Diamond Princess (docked off the coast of Japan) were sent to Omaha’s National Quarantine Unit. UNMC’s James Lawler, MD, accompanied the group after having traveled to Japan to both provide infectious disease expertise to the disaster medical assistance team and help evaluate and evacuate the 400 Americans on board the ship.

Once in Omaha, 11 of the 13 passengers tested positive for COVID-19.

Later, two additional passengers arrived in Omaha, bringing the total monitored at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine to 15.

Americans arrive from China for monitoring at Camp Ashland. The UNMC team observes the arrival of Americans from China.

At left: The first group of 57 Americans to arrive from China for monitoring at Camp Ashland. Faces of the 57 were intentionally blurred to protect their privacy. At right: The group was observed by members of the UNMC and Nebraska Medicine team involved in the logistics of the mission.

When Jeri Seratti-Goldman of Santa Clarita Valley, California, left quarantine in early March she said: “This place is special, and you should be very proud.” Seratti-Goldman tested negative throughout her quarantine process; her husband, Carl, tested positive and wasn’t released until mid-March.

In late February, UNMC launched the first clinical trial in the United States to evaluate an experimental treatment for COVID-19.The randomized, controlled clinical trial evaluated the safety and efficacy of the investigational antiviral remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with COVID-19.The first

trial participant? An American who was repatriated after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and volunteered to participate in the study.

“We are pleased that the NIH (National Institutes of Health) has chosen UNMC and Nebraska Medicine as the site for this importantwork”, said Andre Kalil, MD, professor of internal medicine at UNMC and infectious diseases physician at Nebraska Medicine, who led the trial. “Our expertise in treating highly infectious disease – as well as our capacity to conduct leading-edge clinical trials – will ensure that this trial is carried out in the most effective manner possible.”

2020 UNMC-Nebraska Medicine Timeline