PCPs Play a Critical Role in Pandemic Response

Seattle Children’s anticipates a massive response will be required by healthcare providers on all fronts to respond to COVID-19. Hospitals, ERs and urgent cares will be strained to capacity to treat the sickest patients; their ability to keep up and save lives will depend in large part on primary care providers having capacity and resources to treat less acute patients throughout our communities.

What you can do:

  • Prepare your clinics immediately to see low acuity respiratory patients.
    • Divide your flow so that patients with and without respiratory symptoms are seen in separate spaces.
    • Consider a front door v. back door check in process.
    • Consider seeing symptomatic kids in their cars and/or asking them to remain in cars until a room is ready for them.
    • Be creative in this crisis situation to minimize in-person patient visits for suspected COVID; use phones, video apps, etc. to see patients and help limit the spread of the virus.
    • Do not automatically redirect patients with respiratory symptoms to urgent care or emergency departments. Manage as much patient care as possible without sending patients to urgent care or the ED.
  • If you experience an increased demand for respiratory visits, consider canceling planned non-urgent patient visits, such as well-child care. Limit well-child appointments to immunizations only, to free up appointments for respiratory patients.
  • Isolate non-emergent respiratory patients with quarantine at home.
  • Consider coordinating with other clinics to become a larger outpatient system for triaging and managing patients.
  • Focus now on procuring the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by your staff, including gloves, masks, eye shields or goggles (not eyeglasses), and gowns.
  • Stay up-to-date on the CDCs guidance on evaluating and reporting Persons Under Investigation (PUI).

When should PCPs send patients to Seattle Children’s (or not)?

Please only send your patients to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department if they are sufficiently ill to need emergent treatment (i.e. they meet criteria for being admitted). Please call our ED Communications Center first at 206-987-8899.

Patients with non-emergent respiratory symptoms and concern for COVID-19 should call Public Health – Seattle & King County and quarantine at home.

Please do not send patients to our urgent care or regional clinics for COVID-19 testing; it is not available at these locations.

Who is being tested for COVID-19?

Current capacity for testing is limited. Ambulatory or admitted patients qualify for testing if they meet the current CDC definition of PUI, which currently (as of 3/4/20) includes relevant travel exposure, contact with a known COVID case, and those admitted with fever and lower respiratory tract infection.

Is Seattle Children’s able to test for COVID-19?

The viral respiratory panel used at Seattle Children’s does not detect COVID-19. We are sending our COVID-19 panels to the University of Washington for testing and receiving results back in 24-48 hours.  Current capacity is limited.

COVID-19 testing is available only for our inpatients with respiratory symptoms and patients who meet the CDC testing criteria (see above); it is not available at our urgent care locations or regional clinics.

How will I know if you are treating my patient for COVID-19?

If your patient is seen at Seattle Children’s for suspected COVID-19 (or any other condition), you will receive our standard fax communications regarding ER summary, admission, discharge etc. If we test your patient for COVID-19, we will share the test results with you.

If one of my patients is an inpatient at Seattle Children’s, what can they expect?

The clinical staff and providers at Seattle Children’s are trained on the identification, isolation and treatment of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. At this point in time:

  • If an inpatient does not have cold or flu-like symptoms, they will continue to receive care without change.
  • If someone in their family has symptoms of fever or cough, they should not visit.

The situation with COVID-19 is evolving rapidly and procedures for patient care will necessarily change to best protect patients, their families and staff.

What are your travel restrictions or policies for your workforce?

We are taking extraordinary measures to combat this virus’ rapid spread. This includes limiting large staff gatherings, canceling events and non-essential meetings or converting them to Webex, encouraging telecommuting, and disallowing airline travel for business.

Seattle Children’s is following the CDC guidance regarding work restrictions for travelers, including 14-day quarantine for staff who have known exposure or traveled to countries identified by CDC guidelines.

We will continually assess and adjust our policies and procedures.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will continue sending updates via Provider News regularly, as needed.

For more information from Seattle Children’s, see:

For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, please visit: