Environmental Health and Safety Office – Bench to Bedside Collaboration in the Wake of SARS-CoV-2

The recent Coronavirus outbreak has resulted in an international response to control the spread of this virus and to better understand the epidemiology of this disease.  This virus was recently named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease is called COVID-19.  The Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHSO) is collaborating with University and Healthcare partners to provide support from bench research to the bedside to prepare for the study of this new virus and to care for potential patients.  EHSO has joined with researchers, Campus Services, Center for Preparedness and Emergency Response, Emory Police Department, Emory Emergency Medical Service, Office of Compliance, Emory Healthcare, Oxford College, Student Health Service, Office of Injury Management, and Serious Communicable Disease Unit in these efforts.  Together we are making preparations in the event one of our community tests positive for this virus, we receive a surge of patients to our hospitals and clinics, or the Serious Contagious Disease Unit (SCDU) is activated to care for patients with active COVID-19. We are also collaborating with other universities across the US to share best practices as we learn more about how to manage this potential pandemic.  The links at the bottom of this article are real time epidemiological data.  Domestically from CDC and worldwide from Johns Hopkins.  At time of this writing there are 14-domestic cases and 81,245 cases worldwide.

EHSO has performed approximately 200 respirator fit tests and trainings to ensure that researchers, first responders, and Healthcare workers are properly fitted with respiratory and other personal protection.  We are conducting Just In Time training with our Healthcare partners for use of ‘high level’ personal protective equipment (PPE) for those that may encounter potential COVID-19 patients.  There is currently a worldwide shortage of respiratory protection (N-95 masks).  EHSO is working with units in research and animal care to determine solutions in the event these masks become unavailable.

Emory investigators are at the forefront of discovery, studying SAR-CoV-2 to develop new vaccines and treatment.  EHSO has conducted risk evaluations and is providing ongoing guidance so that our researchers can safely conduct groundbreaking science.  This guidance includes engineering controls, work procedures and practices, decontamination methods, and PPE.  All work with live virus will be conducted in high containment labs (Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3)) and all work protocols have been reviewed and approved prior to initiation.  Additionally, in-person training is also provided to researchers that will handle live virus or samples potentially infected with SAR-CoV-2.

US status: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html

Global: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Scott Thomaston, MS, MPH
Interim Executive Director
Environmental Health and Safety Office

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