GW Hospital briefs community members, leaders on COVID-19 response

Officials briefed community members on how the GW Hospital is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic at a monthly neighborhood meeting held virtually Wednesday night.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission met with community members via Zoom – to curb COVID-19 contagion – to ask GW Hospital officials how the hospital has responded to D.C.’s COVID-19 outbreak and approve plans for a protected bike lane that would run through campus. Commissioners passed a resolution recommending how GW should host the Class of 2020 Commencement after officials canceled this year’s graduation ceremonies and announced plans for a joint celebration next spring.

In case you weren’t able to Zoom into the meeting, here are the highlights.

Pandemic updates from the GW Hospital
Babak Sarani, the hospital’s director of trauma and acute care surgery, announced that the GW Hospital is working to accept helicopter landings from the Maryland State Police on its helipad, which opened in November.

Sarani said Maryland State Police Aviation Command, which provides emergency medical transportation in the DMV, currently does not bring COVID-19 patients from other hospitals to GW. But he said allowing state police landings at GW would be useful if other D.C. hospitals become too full to accept more patients.

“I do see them, however, picking up a car crash or shooting victim, some sort of a trauma patient, and then in the air, they literally have no place to go,” Sarani said. “And if we have the capacity to receive them, if I have room in my ICU, then we would be accepting that flight into GW.”

Bruno Petinaux, the GW Hospital’s chief medical officer, said hospital leadership began preparing for the coronavirus outbreak in January after the first cases were reported in China. He said the hospital has taken measures, like canceling elective surgeries and setting up a screening tent outside the hospital, to prepare to treat patients.

“The goal there is to make sure that we have adequate resources and that we have the space also at GW to provide care to our community,” Petinaux said.

Re-scheduling commencement
Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution calling on the National Parks Service to work with GW to accommodate consolidating the 2020 and 2021 commencements. The resolution urges GW to hold college-specific ceremonies in addition to a University-wide celebration for the Class of 2020.

Kevin Michael Days, the director of community relations, said rescheduling the ceremony to be held this calendar year is not feasible because the permitting process to reserve the space on the mall needs to be completed well in advance. He added that the upcoming presidential inauguration in January prevents the space from being available for “several months.”

“The University did look to see when it could get it, and this just is the best case we have at this point,” Days said.

Thousands of students signed a petition calling on officials to reschedule the 2020 Commencement after officials canceled the ceremony last week.

Casey Danoff, a senior who attended the virtual meeting, said officials should consider holding the two ceremonies on separate weekends to avoid complications with increased volume for booking hotels and travel.

“If we try to put two graduations on the same weekend with all the families coming into town, it could be very chaotic and difficult to do any of that which would make an already stressful situation all the more stressful,” she said.

Deciding a route for a protected bike lane
Commissioners voted on a resolution supporting the District Department of Transportation’s construction of a 12-foot-wide bike lane on G Street with a 3-foot buffer, a 10-foot-wide parking lane and a 10-foot-wide vehicle travel lane.

The ANC has spent more than a year negotiating with DDOT and gathering community input about how and where to construct a protected bike lane that would run from Dupont to the National Mall.

James Harnett, a senior and the ANC’s vice chair, said the ANC chose to support a proposal for a 10-foot-wide parking lane, rather than DDOT’s alternate proposal for an 8-foot-wide parking lane, to allow space for businesses along the street to load and unload products.

“In the retail corridor, there is a significant demand and need for enough space for box trucks and loading to occur for the businesses in that area,” Harnett said.

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