Experts share the latest coronavirus-related guidance for safe employee and patient care.
Every day, there are new developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, in guidance on March 18, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) gave employers permission to take employees’ temperatures to try and ward off the spread of the coronavirus in their organizations. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that not every person with COVID-19 has a fever, and not every person with a fever has COVID-19.
The temperature reading is to be kept confidential, and the person taking the temperature should have adequate training on the procedure. However, there is little formal guidance yet about what employers should do if a worker refuses have a temperature taken and whether employees need to be paid for the time necessary to for this activity. At the same time, experts stress that temperature-taking as a screening tools is not likely to be as effective as sheltering in place.
Elsewhere, last month the government has released some new and revised guidance on the use of facemasks and others tools to protect employees and patients alike. Facemasks, says the CDC, can be worn for repeated close contact encounters with several different patients without removal between them. Facemask use is restricted to use by healthcare professionals. Patients with symptoms of respiratory infection should use tissues or other barriers to cover their mouth and nose. Facemask use is prioritized by selected activities, including provision of essential surgeries and procedures, during care activities where splashes and sprays are anticipated; during activities where prolonged face-to-face or close contact with a possibly infectious patient is unavoidable; and for performing aerosol-generating procedures.
- The CDC suggests shifting to cloth isolation gowns and considering the use of coveralls. The CDC also recommends extended use of either disposable or cloth isolation gowns when interacting with more than one patient known to be infected with the disease when those patients are housed in the same location.
- The use of gowns is prioritized during care activities where splashes/sprays are anticipated and during high-contact patient-care activities that provide opportunities for transfer of pathogens to hands and clothes of healthcare providers.
- When gowns aren’t available, the CDC recommends considering pieces of clothing as a last resort. These should be items with long sleeves and closures such as snaps or buttons that can be fastened and secured.
- The CDC recommends prioritizing eye protection for selected activities. These including care activities where splashes/sprays are anticipated and/or there is prolonged face-to-face or close contact.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recommended against using ibuprofen to manage COVID-19 symptoms. This recommendation was made even though there is no strong evidence that this medication exacerbates COVID-19. However, the WHO, the British Pharmacological Society, and others are standing firm behind this recommendation
There are many sources of information on COVID-19 updates, but one of the best, most accurate sources is the CDC. Additionally, click here or here for post-acute and long-term care industry-specific updates.
UPDATE: Since this article was first published, CDC made the following announcement: “In light of new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”