COVID-19: Separating Fact from Fiction

As someone who has worked in healthcare for a long time, and someone who is a nurse, I get a lot of questions about things.  I have come to realize that the information that I have comes from years of training and experience; training and experience that others (who are not healthcare providers) do not have.  Sometimes I can give an easy straightforward answer, sometimes I tell people to consult their doctor (clarification: their ACTUAL doctor, not WebMD), but sometimes I have to clear up a misconception they have about certain things…

So, by now you’ve heard of COVID-19, or as come to be known as the Coronavirus.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they are responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in 37 locations internationally, including cases in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concernexternal icon” (PHEIC). On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to COVID-19.

Now that we understand what it is, you are probably wondering “how does it affect you and the people you serve, and what steps should you take?” Well, before we get to that, here is where I want to separate some of the myths floating around from the facts from the CDC.  Notice how I said “the CDC?” This is the organization where you should be getting your information from, straight from the source.  They are updating their information on a regular basis and there is really no substitute for accurate information.  Visit their website at www.cdc.gov and you can find all the information regarding COVID-19 as it is right on their homepage. Consider that my PSA for this blog post!

According to the latest information the CDC posted on February 20, 2020 from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)Division of Viral Diseases, here are the latest information:

Share the Facts, Stop Fear

Know the facts about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and help stop the spread of rumors.

#1:  Someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a risk of infection to other people.

For up-to-date information, visit CDC’s coronavirus disease situation summary page.

#2:  The risk of getting COVID-19 in the U.S. is low.

Some people who have traveled to places where many people have gotten sick with COVID-19 may be monitored by health officials to protect their health and the health of other people in the community.

#3:  Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity.

People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.

#4:  You can help stop COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Seek medical advice if you have traveled to China in the past 14 days and feel sick. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

#5:  There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Most of the people we typically work with are organizations in the field of long-term care. These would be Assisted Living Facilities (ALF), Home and Community Based Care organizations (HCBC) – specifically Adult Day Service centers (ADS).  If you are working in a residential facility such as an ALF, chances of your residents traveling around the world are fairly low.  If you are in an ADS, chances might be a bit higher as it is a non-residential facility.  But, the sector you need to concern yourself most with is these individuals families and caregivers.  This is where you have the highest risk of exposure and how it could potentially affect you and the rest of your facility.

Just this morning, I received an email from a facility I had worked with in recent months stating that they have initiated a new visitor policy and were requiring all visitors to the facility to answer a questionnaire before they are granted entrance to the facility. 

This is one of the areas that the CDC is recommending for healthcare related facilities and organizations to put attention towards.  The CDC has created a set of recommendations for healthcare professionals regarding infection prevention and control.

Manage Visitor Access and Movement Within the Facility

  • Establish procedures for monitoring, managing and training visitors.
  • Restrict visitors from entering the room of known or suspected COVID-19 patients (i.e., PUI). Alternative mechanisms for patient and visitor interactions, such as video-call applications on cell phones or tablets should be explored. Facilities can consider exceptions based on end-of-life situations or when a visitor is essential for the patient’s emotional well-being and care.
  • Visitors to patients with known or suspected COVID-19 (i.e., PUI) should be scheduled and controlled to allow for:
    • Screening visitors for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before entering the healthcare facility.
    • Facilities should evaluate risk to the health of the visitor (e.g., visitor might have underlying illness putting them at higher risk for COVID-19) and ability to comply with precautions.
    • Facilities should provide instruction, before visitors enter patients’ rooms, on hand hygiene, limiting surfaces touched, and use of PPE according to current facility policy while in the patient’s room.
    • Facilities should maintain a record (e.g., log book) of all visitors who enter patient rooms.
    • Visitors should not be present during aerosol-generating procedures.
    • Visitors should be instructed to limit their movement within the facility.
    • Exposed visitors (e.g., contact with COVID-19 patient prior to admission) should be advised to report any signs and symptoms of acute illness to their health care provider for a period of at least 14 days after the last known exposure to the sick patient.
  • All visitors should follow respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette precautions while in the common areas of the facility.

The full set of recommendations can be found by clicking this link.

Our ultimate goal is to help educate you on what COVID-19 is, provide you with facts and recommendations from the CDC, and hopefully help you start the conversation of what you need to do to protect the individuals under your care and the staff who care for them.  If there is one thing we would urge you to take away from this blog post is to WASH YOUR HANDS.  When I was a young nursing student, I had a fantastic teacher, Joy Bausman who drilled into our young impressionable minds “handwashing is the single most effective way to break the chain of infection.”  Wash them often and wash them correctly.  This may be the right time to dust off your infection control policy and turn to the handwashing section and give your staff an in-service.  Here is a helpful video on handwashing to supplement your training, and if you really want to drive the point home, try incorporating Glow Germ into your trainings.  I promise you it is a real eye opener.

Feel like you need someone to help you out with developing infection control policies and procedures or trainings (that are super fun and interactive)? Contact Harpeth Consultant Advisory Group to discuss your needs and how we can help.

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