Fred Hutch activates mandatory remote work policy for its Seattle employees

Photo of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Seattle campus
Fred Hutch Seattle campus Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service Click for high-resolution image

SEATTLE — March 4, 2020 — Fred Hutch announced it is activating a mandatory remote work policy as part of the center’s emergency management plans. The policy, effective Thursday, March 5, impacts the organization’s Seattle-based employees, excluding essential, on-campus staff such as wet-lab staff, security and facilities management. The policy will remain in effect through March 31 unless conditions warrant additional time.

The activation follows a King County Public Health announcement, recommending organizations in the greater Puget Sound region to encourage their employees to work from home.

Fred Hutch’s decision is based on several criteria including the growing number of COVID-19 diagnoses in the community. No Fred Hutch employees have been diagnosed with the virus as of today, but out of an abundance of caution, the organization accelerated its preparedness plans, recognizing proximity to health care operations and patients.

While the evidence shows most cases of the respiratory disease are mild, like a common cold, the virus can cause severe illness and death. The policy is aimed at protecting employees, research participants, and visitors from COVID-19 while continuing Fred Hutch’s essential research and support operations. 

photo of Dr. Tom Lynch, president and director of Fred Hutch
Dr. Tom Lynch, president and director of Fred Hutch Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service Click for high-resolution image

“It's important to know there's a difference between preparedness and panic,” said Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, president and director, Fred Hutch. “With technological advances we have the ability to remotely conduct and collaborate on research projects. By limiting in-person contact, our goal is to safeguard our employees, research participants and visitors, while continuing our lifesaving research on cancer, HIV and other diseases, including COVID-19.”

Fred Hutch will continually evaluate the actions needed to keep employees, patients and visitors safe. It will also rely on guidance from public health experts and infectious disease researchers to inform decisions and will continue to coordinate closely with other organizations in the community on their responses.

Fred Hutch’s partner organization, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), is also instituting measures to safeguard its patients and employees.

“Our two organizations are working closely together to limit risk to patients, while allowing them to continue receiving excellent care for cancer and other disease,” said Dr. Steve Pergam, an infectious disease specialist at Fred Hutch and the Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. “Many cancer patients are immunosuppressed because of their cancer treatments and they face the highest risk for major complications from COVID-19. We encourage our community to continue showing compassion for each other as well as those personally affected.”

Infectious disease researchers at Fred Hutch are contributing to scientific efforts to test, track and model the evolving COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, visit Fred Hutch’s Coronavirus Overview.


Fred Hutch Media Relations
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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.