BOISE — There were no second-year Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) students on campus Monday after a handful of students from that class tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few days. However, operations cannot stop for healthcare professionals in the middle of a pandemic.
"It's impossible to teach people to be physicians completely online. There has to be in-person, and I don't think anyone wants their physician coming out without talking to people," said ICOM Dean, Dr. Thomas Mohr.
ICOM has kept doors open for students thanks to extensive cleaning and safety procedures. The director of facilities operations, Chris Wilson, says they have added filters to their HVAC system, increased the air changes, and scan temperatures at the entrance.
"As soon as we get a notification that a student called in feeling ill, we begin contact tracing, even before they test positive," said Wilson.
When students test positive for COVID, the building shuts down for three days.
"Since July that's happened three times; it did happen to us again last week, and when that happens, it's disruptive, but we clean the facility, we bring people back, and we move on," said Dr. Mohr.
Students try and mitigate the risk by gearing up in PPE alongside physicians when working in hospitals for their hands-on work. ICOM students serve ten different locations.
"We have had one or two institutions that have put a pause on medical students in training; it's only affected a handful of our students," said Mohr. "It is concerning, as the numbers of cases go up in our regions around the country that more hospitals may decide they don't want medical students."
That scenario happened last winter, according to Mohr.
"And it could happen again as the spike gets worse," said Mohr.
The medical school also has a COVID-19 task force that relays information to their community. The recent positive cases were identified on Oct. 29, and the second-year students will be allowed back on campus Tuesday, Nov. 3.