Fred Hutchinson Implements Remote Work Policies During Coronavirus Outbreak


As Seattle and its outlying areas have become the front-lines of the coronavirus in the United States, with at least 10 deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the state of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has implemented a mandatory remote work policy.

The new policy was announced Wednesday as part of the organization's emergency management plans. The policy only impacts employees based in Seattle and does exclude some staff, including security and facilities management, the organization said. The mandatory work-from-home policy will remain in effect through March 31, but could be extended depending on circumstances. Fred Hutchison said the requirement follows a recommendation from King County Public Health that encouraged organizations in the greater Puget Sound region to have their employees work from home.

At this time, no employees of the famed research center have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but the organization said it was implementing the remote work policy “out of an abundance of caution.” Fred Hutch said it has accelerated its preparedness plans, recognizing proximity to health care operations and patients. Infectious disease researchers at Fred Hutch are contributing to scientific efforts to test, track and model the evolving COVID-19 outbreak.

Thomas Lynch, president and director of Fred Hutch, said there is a difference between preparedness and panic and it’s important to note that the decision was made out of a sense of precaution. Although most cases of COVID-19, an upper respiratory illness, have been mild, the virus can lead to death, particularly in elderly or immunocompromised patients. Lynch said the remote work policy is aimed at protecting employees and visitors from the outbreak while ensuring that the organization’s essential research continues.

“With technological advances, we have the ability to remotely conduct and collaborate on research projects. By limiting in-person contact, our goal is to safeguard our employees, research participants and visitors, while continuing our lifesaving research on cancer, HIV and other diseases, including COVID-19,” Lynch said in a statement.

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