The state of Washington is one of the most affected states in the US by the coronavirus. As of last week, Seattle Children’s says it has tested 660 patients for COVID-19, with four who came back positive and are now all recovering at home. Of 166 staff members tested since last week, four tested positive.

Here, we speak with Jim Sawyer, Director of Security Services at Seattle Children's Hospital, and learn how security and medical staff are handling the coronavirus epidemic.

Security magazine: You are located in one of the US states that has been hit hardest by the coronavirus. What is the current situation in your hospital?

Jim Sawyer: Obviously, a lot has changed at Seattle Children's within the past few weeks. The visitor policy has changed. As of today, we allow one visitor per patient -- or one parent to visit their child. We are screening all staff at designated entrances for fever and other symptoms. We have closed multiple entrances. All non-critical outpatient clinics are closed. Large numbers of staff are working from home. And all volunteer services and the volunteer office has been closed. 

Security magazine: What are you and your security team doing to protect doctors, nurses and other medical professionals in order to keep them safe?

Jim Sawyer: Security is supporting all entrance screenings. We have added extra security staff to our team to protect two external patient tents in anticipation of a surge in patients. We are screening patients at all off-site clinics, and we now have assigned security to those off-site facilities. We are utilizing contract security, as our team is stretched really thin. I have brought on three contract security companies with two additional options, we need more. Yet, I have found that some contract companies are understandably reluctant to work here.

Security magazine: What are you and your security team doing to protect yourselves from being exposed to the virus?

Jim Sawyer: Security continues to respond immediately to all situations. Understandably, there are a lot of angry families and visitors at this time. My security team has to be very aware, more than ever, of the stress levels for families and visitors. My team is wearing personal protective equipment when we engage with individuals who are sick with the virus or who could have been exposed to it, but protective equipment is in short supply!

Overall, we are tracking all care giver concerns. We want to mitigate all security issues, including trespassing individuals. I'd like to offer this advice to my fellow healthcare security colleagues: Don't scale back on security right now as this situation with this virus can change within minutes, and security is a resource that is essential during this time!