One Year Later

What Has COVID Taught Us?

One Year Later

What Has COVID Taught Us?

The world has been grappling with COVID-19 for just over a year now, with 129.2 million cases around the globe and 2.8 million deaths. At Cincinnati Children’s, it put us to the test like nothing else in our 138-year history. And it’s not over yet.

Jeff Simmons, MD, chief safety officer and assistant vice president for Safety and Regulatory Affairs, reflected on how we’ve done and what we’ve learned so far about the disease and about ourselves.

On how we’ve changed as an organization during COVID

I see two ways in which we have changed. First, COVID presented this amazingly timed opportunity to test and reinforce our Safer Together framework. In the beginning, there was so much fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Some of the questions people had, no one could answer. We didn’t have enough data or experience. So there was plenty of opportunity to speak up, and lots of people did.

The dynamic of listening well and responding with grace and gratitude was challenged the most. COVID reinforced it in a positive way. We were able to raise issues professionally and respond to them effectively. Effective response doesn’t mean you always do what someone wants you to do, but it does mean listening respectfully with an open mind and discussing why you agree or disagree.

The second change involves taking smart risks. During our COVID response and recovery, we had to take smart risks every day for months, and we needed to make decisions in the moment, often without all the data we needed. I think we showed that if we can get teams to agree on where we’re going and get them rowing together in the right direction, we can accomplish almost anything. We have so much talent and energy at Cincinnati Children’s; with a clear vision and empowered teams, we can tackle most problems effectively and efficiently. One example was the decision to implement temporary pay practices for those who were ill or had no work available. It was absolutely the right thing to do, and I think it helped people feel like they could stay calm and breathe so we could get through this together.

On points of pride

Although we faced serious supply shortages, uncertainty, and an overwhelming number of other challenges, we were able to come together as a community to respond to the COVID crisis. It allowed us to build relationships and trust that will endure. We were problem-solving every hour. It was relentless, but we met that task.

More specifically, we protected our employees. When the big spike came in the fall, we made key decisions to further scale back, moving all meetings to virtual platforms and making changes in the cafeterias and break spaces. Once we did that, we had almost no workplace exposures for COVID despite the large disease burden in the community.

We also did well at meeting the needs of the community, especially with testing and advising schools on how to protect kids and teachers and get them back in the classroom. We used our expertise in data and epidemiology to be a resource for community health systems. With COVID, things got crazy enough that competitors like TriHealth, Mercy and UC came together to share data, learning, and even patients to manage the surge. Our role was to create the data and analytics that allowed them to manage together.

Clinically, there were groups made up of people from multiple disciplines and subspecialties who set guidelines for our work:

  • The COVID Treatment Team met very early on to develop principles, algorithms and standards of care to promote consistency across teams and subspecialties.
  • A second group met to define what constitutes an aerosol-generating procedure and what the appropriate personal protective equipment should be, based on CDC and WHO guidelines and evolving evidence.
  • Two groups worked on vaccine allocation—one developed a plan for deciding who should be prioritized that was fair and equitable; the other worked on the logistics of distributing it to employees and eventually patients.

On the biggest lessons learned so far

  • We re-affirmed the importance of engaging with and using the patient/family voice as we made decisions about visitor policy, screening, and testing.
  • We’ve had a rich history of partnering with the pediatric practice community, but COVID brought us closer together. It reinforced the idea that we all have a responsibility to improve the health of children in our region and we need to partner with each other to achieve that goal.
  • We really are better together. Even if we agree to disagree, when we are able to come to a consensus and work as a team, we can do amazing things.

COVID by the Numbers—1 Year Later


  • Number of N-95 masks issued in 2020—34,397 (393.15% increase over previous year)
  • Number of N-95 masks issued in 2019—6,975

Telehealth Visits

  • March 2020-February 2021—229,793 (over 230,000 encounters) 100x growth over previous year
  • Prior to March 2020, we averaged about 225 patients per month via telehealth

COVID Vaccines Administered

  • Employees—15,600 doses given (first and second doses)
  • Developmentally disabled community members—678

COVID Testing

  • Employees—8,425
  • Inpatients—17,361
  • Non-inpatients—90,785

Media Interviews About COVID

Bob Frenck, MD—More than 2,270 print or broadcast mentions worldwide, including over 120 media interviews

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