Match Day Events Canceled, Step 2 Testing Postponed Because of COVID-19

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MARCH 16, 2020 -- Match Day 2020 is shaping up to be like none other, thanks to rising numbers of cases caused by the novel coronavirus in the United States, which has not only led to mass shutdowns of schools and businesses — but also now the cancellations of Match Day events and the suspension of Step 2 clinical skills testing.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) celebrates Match Day this Friday. 

The event is traditionally marked by on-campus gatherings, celebrations, and other events — at least until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to widespread restrictions on large gatherings and ushered in "social distancing" as a means to reduce spread of the virus. 

Many schools are either canceling Match Day celebrations or moving to live-stream events to keep social contact at a minimum.

In a statement emailed to Medscape Medical News, the NRMP said it "understands the disappointment for schools and students unable to have a Match ceremony. This is a pivotal day for everyone. But while some schools are cancelling their ceremony, others are not at all or are reconfiguring them using live-streaming."

The NRMP will provide results to schools at 8 AM eastern time on Thursday. "This timing allows 28 hours to print or schedule an email release of the results at 12 PM ET on Friday, ensuring that everyone is able to receive their results at the same time. While we realize it is a challenging time, it is our goal to ensure that our processes are equitable for all students and schools," the organization said.

"We look forward to celebrating Match Day with our constituents via live streaming of ceremonies and social media posts using #Match2020," the NRMP said.

Many Schools Canceling Match Day Events

According to an article by The Student Doctor Network , a nonprofit service for medical professionals, several schools have already announced their intent to cancel Match Day celebrations because of COVID-19 concerns, including The University of Washington, Brown University, Stanford University, and Columbia University.

Other schools, including New York University, Case Western University, and Baylor University, have placed restrictions on the celebration, such as barring family and friends from joining, and splitting up students into smaller groups to avoid large congregations.

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Ekaterina Pesheva, director of science communications and media relations for Harvard Medical School, told Medscape Medical News that, "in accordance with the latest public health guidance around coronavirus," Harvard has shifted its in-person Match Day celebration to be held virtually this year.

There will also be "no formal gathering" on Match Day at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, although the school is "still trying to figure out a way to pull everyone together," said Lisa Worley, assistant vice president for medical communications and media relations at the school.

As of today, the number of novel coronavirus cases in the US has surpassed 4200, according to The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, which has developed a dashboard that tracks real-time data on confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries for all affected countries.

As of March 15, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers of large events and mass gatherings (which include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more.

Today, President Donald Trump lowered that number from 50 people to 10. 

"Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual," the CDC said.

Suspension of Step 2 Testing

Spread of the novel coronavirus has also led the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) program to temporarily suspend Step 2 clinical skills testing as of today.

"We are aware that examinees are scheduled to take USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) and of the importance of the examination to their future goals and obligations. However, given the unique, human-to-human delivery mode of this exam, it is important to take the following precautionary steps to protect the health of examinees and test center staff," reads a statement on the USMLE website. 

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All clinical skills test centers will be closed starting today, with operations to resume April 13. However, given the "fluid nature" of this situation, this date is subject to change, with updates provided at usmle.org, the organization states.

A Clinical Skills Evaluation Collaboration (CSEC) staff member will contact those who have a testing appointment canceled because of the temporary closure to assist with rescheduling the appointment.

Once test centers resume operations, the USMLE will open additional testing appointments to help meet increased, time-sensitive testing demands. Updates to the Step 2 CS scheduling and score reporting calendar will be posted to the USMLE website.

"We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work together through this challenging time. The USMLE program is actively working with other organizations in medical education and medical regulation to provide the least possible amount of disruption to examinees during this unprecedented situation," the statement reads.

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