University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, in Iowa City, Iowa

IOWA CITY — University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics has released the number of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, but those numbers do not translate into an outbreak, officials said Friday.

“Today was the first time we shared with our staff the total number of employees who have self-reported to the University Employee Health Center that they tested positive for COVID-19,” spokeswoman Molly Rossiter wrote in an email. “This is now part of our daily reporting of our COVID-19 numbers and provides an additional element of transparency.”

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Those numbers showed four employees on Thursday, April 16, had self-reported they were diagnosed with COVID-19, with 64 total since February, out of 15,000 employees.

“The 64 number is an aggregate number that might look or feel high because it’s the first day that we’ve shared this total, however, it represents only .4 percent of our total employee population,” Rossiter wrote. “As community transmission of COVID-19 increases, determining whether health care worker infections are acquired in the workplace or in the community becomes more difficult. The overwhelming majority of these individuals appear to have acquired COVID-19 via community transmission.”

Calling the numbers an “outbreak” is inaccurate, she noted, saying they are “not reflective of a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.”

Per CDC guidance, symptomatic health care workers are often prioritized for COVID-19 testing. For that reason, the population tested for COVID-19 at UIHC represents a larger proportion of health care workers compared to the community population, Rossiter wrote.

The email stated: “We are safe.”

“University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics remains one of the safest places in the area to deliver or receive care. All of our staff have face coverings, know how to follow social distancing guidelines, and we screen employees and the limited visitors we have for symptoms. All of our COVID-19 patients are isolated and all of our staff who treat these patients are provided with the appropriate PPE every time.”

UIHC offered the following advice to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic:

· Stay six feet away from others

· Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly

· Don’t touch your face

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