UK HealthCare reflects on a year of COVID-19

Published 8:00 am Saturday, March 6, 2021

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March marks one year since the COVID-19 global pandemic disrupted and altered everyone’s life.

On March 6, it will be a year since Kentucky confirmed the first case of COVID-19 – a patient admitted to UK Chandler Hospital. A few days later, on March 11, the University of Kentucky announced it would transition its campus of more than 30,000 students to online instruction – initially just for two weeks following spring break — but eventually from March 23 through the end of the Spring 2020 semester.

Additionally, on March 20, UK President Eli Capilouto announced all employees able to work remotely would begin to do so, except for those in patient care, public safety, facilities maintenance and other areas where work must be performed on-site. Seemingly overnight, the bustling campus became desolate.

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As we reflect on the past year, we want to remember not just the challenges and hardships but also the resiliency and perseverance of our students, faculty and staff. From the teams of patient care providers at UK HealthCare on the front-lines taking care of COVID-19 positive patients to the educators who changed all of their coursework to a different format within a few days, everyone was impacted in the way they work, or how and where they studied and how we lived.

Along with these notable and noticeable groups of people and the incredible responsibilities that became vital during this pandemic, countless others in all areas of our UK campus have been demonstrating unwavering dedication to helping others and aiding the university in continuing its mission during the most difficult of times.

Over the next few weeks, through our UKnow news site and our social media channels — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube — we will share the stories, the tenacity and the strength of many of the people who have proven that despite the challenges of the past year, there is hope on the horizon and we will prevail, “Till the battle is won.”

Timeline and Milestones 

  • Jan. 22, 2020: UK HealthCare begins taking precautions such as screening patients who traveled to China during the holiday break and then returned to the University of Kentucky campus.
  • Jan. 28, 2020:  A workgroup of senior administrators from UK HealthCare, the Provost’s Office, Finance and Administration, Emergency Management, the International Center, Risk Management, Human Resources, and Communications is formed to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our campus community in light of the international outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Feb. 24, 2020: Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise communities across the United States that they should prepare for potential domestic COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Feb. 27, 2020: UK President Eli Capilouto sends an update to the UK campus about the latest restrictions surrounding coronavirus. Although no case of coronavirus has been identified at UK or in Kentucky, UK officials announce the university’s plans and preparations to deal with the illness if the need arises.
  • March 6, 2020: The first positive case of COVID-19 is identified in Kentucky, a patient being treated at UK Chandler Hospital.
  • March 12, 2020: Following an announcement of a ban on travel to the U.S. by Europeans and a Level 3 Warning to avoid nonessential travel to most of Europe, UK begins contacting 87 students who are studying abroad in Europe to help them make arrangements to return immediately to the United States.
  • March 19, 2020: UK announces the cancelation or postponement of most in-person events as the result of measures being taken in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), including May Commencement.
  • March 20, 2020: UK HealthCare begins the move toward providing primarily telecare patient visits for most ambulatory clinics. Within just a few weeks, more than 11,000 visits were completed in 107 clinics and more than 19,500 telecare appointments are scheduled.
  • March 21, 2020: In-house COVID-19 testing begins through UK’s clinical laboratories. UK HealthCare’s clinical microbiology lab has been providing in-house COVID-19 testing since March 21. A year later, the lab has conducted more than 105,000 total tests.
  • March 23, 2020: UK HealthCare announces a no-visitation policy will be implemented at its hospitals and clinics until the threat of COVID-19 transmission has decreased significantly.
  • March 23, 2020: UK transitions all course delivery from face-to-face to online or other appropriate alternatives until the end of the spring 2020 semester.
  • March 26, 2020: To help test patient care providers at UK HealthCare, drive-thru testing begins at UK HealthCare Turfland. Initially, about 100 health care employee appointments are scheduled per day.
  • March 27, 2020:  UK requires all students to vacate university housing (including fraternity and sorority houses).
  • April 3, 2020: UK President Eli Capilouto announces that all instruction for Summer 2020 will move to online or remote learning formats.
  • April 3, 2020: Researchers and faculty from multiple disciplines across the University of Kentucky come together as part of the global effort to treat, understand and eradicate COVID-19. The COVID-19 Unified Research Experts (CURE) Alliance team, brings together experts from across the campus to focus on advising COVID-19 patient care and clinical trials based on emerging research and potential treatment options.
  • June 17, 2020: UK College of Medicine and UK HealthCare announce the launch of a new clinical trial designed to assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in Central and Eastern Kentucky. Known as Serologic Testing to Accelerate Recovery and Transition (START), the study focuses on antibody testing to begin understanding how many people in the region may have already contracted and recovered from COVID-19.
  • June 18, 2020: UK College of Medicine researchers are using the special antibodies made by alpacas, called nanobodies, to help understand the novel coronavirus and potentially develop a treatment that could protect people from being infected.
  • July 2, 2020: President Eli Capilouto announces that Labor Day (Sept. 7) will be a work and instruction day on campus.
  • July 10, 2020: UK announces that this fall it will cap tuition and mandatory fees for all full-time undergraduate students regardless of how many in-class or online classes a student takes.
  • Aug. 4, 2020: Mandatory COVID-19 testing for all UK students physically returning to campus this fall begins at five campus locations. More than 1,800 students are tested the first day.
  • Aug. 13, 2020: UK announces for the 2021-22 academic year, the university is going “test-optional” for admission and an ACT or SAT score is not required for a student seeking admission to UK.
  • Aug. 17, 2020: In-person classes for the Fall 20-21 semester begin a week early and will end at Thanksgiving.
  • Aug. 24, 2020: Kentucky’s Department for Public Health partners with UK and UK HealthCare to begin free drive-up COVID-19 testing for the community at two sites, College Way and at Eastern State Hospital.
  • Sept. 14, 2020: Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force and coordinator for the nation’s coronavirus response, visits UK and commends the campus’ restart plans and what the university is doing to keep students and the community safe.
  • Sept. 25, 2020: UK Health Corps begins notifying students that they have been selected for required random COVID-19 testing. The testing regimen will occur only among the student population that is physically coming to campus.
  • Oct. 27, 2020:  Since mid to late summer, UK HealthCare averages about 25 to 30 COVID-19 positive inpatients but in mid to late October, the number of inpatients increases to 45 to 50. The hospital also prepares for an even bigger surge during the upcoming holiday season.
  • Nov. 5, 2020: UK, in partnership with Baptist Health Lexington and Norton Healthcare in Louisville, is selected as a testing site for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson’s Phase 3 clinical research study, called the ENSEMBLE trial, to evaluate Janssen’s investigational COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
  • Nov. 18, 2020: Researchers in UK’s College of Medicine and College of Engineering are testing a new technology to evaluate wastewater to track the community presence of COVID-19. The results could impact how public health officials track COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Nov. 30, 2020:  UK HealthCare announces the closure of five of its 32 operating rooms (ORs) at UK Chandler Hospital to decrease hospital admissions, increasing capacity for COVID patients.
  • Dec. 3, 2020: UK HealthCare is chosen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health to participate in a national distribution readiness test for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Dec. 4, 2020: UK celebrates the Fall 2020 graduates with a virtual Commencement ceremony. May and August 2020 grads who registered for the ceremony will also be recognized.
  • Dec. 16, 2020: The first front-line employees at UK HealthCare receive the Pfizer vaccine. In the first week, about 1,950 front-line health care workers who either take care of COVID-19 patients or who are exposed to patients being ruled out for the virus, will receive the first dose of the two-dose vaccine.
  • Dec. 17, 2020:  A UK study provides evidence for a 7-day quarantine for university students exposed to COVID-19.
  • Jan. 14, 2021: All UK students who are physically returning to campus are required to have entry COVID-19 testing beginning Jan. 14 and continuing through the first week of classes, Jan. 30.
  • Jan. 19, 2021: UK HealthCare begins providing centralized COVID-19 vaccinations with vaccinations taking place at a rate of 80 to 85 people every 20 minutes. UK, UK HealthCare and UK Athletics partnered to offer the public vaccination clinic at Kroger Field, UK’s football stadium.
  • Jan. 29, 2021: The Phase 3 ENSEMBLE study of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is found to be 85% effective in preventing severe disease and showed protection against COVID-19 related hospitalization and death. UK HealthCare, in partnership with Baptist Health Lexington and Norton Healthcare in Louisville, participated as a study site.
  • Feb. 9, 2021: UK is selected as a testing site for a second Johnson & Johnson Phase 3 clinical research study, ENSEMBLE 2 which is evaluating the safety and efficacy of a two-dose regimen of Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
  • Feb. 17, 2021: The UK COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Kroger Field announces another expansion increasing vaccination capacity by approximately 150 Kentuckians per hour.
  • Feb. 20, 2021:  UK and UK HealthCare, in partnership with state and local governments, begin providing COVID-19 vaccine access to medically underserved populations in Fayette County through mobile pop-up clinics.
  • March 4, 2021: UK and UK HealthCare’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic administers its 100,000th dose.

As the University of Kentucky commemorates one year of battling COVID-19, we’re reminded of our promise to the Commonwealth and each other.  Every corner of our campus — from UK HealthCare to Athletics, from our Emergency Operations Center to volunteers in our health colleges and across this university — has united for a common purpose. And, when members of our community come together with the heart to step up, there is almost no challenge too large, no obstacle too daunting, to overcome. Because of this community – its resilience, compassion and expertise – we have experienced, even in the face of a global pandemic, what is wildly possible.