The United States is currently experiencing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus (officially named COVID-19, aka 2019-nCoV), a respiratory disease that was first seen in Wuhan City, China. Healthcare workers are at a higher risk for exposure due to the nature of their work in close contact with patients and families who may have been exposed to the virus. This new infectious disease underscores the necessity for facilities in long-term care to review carefully their infection control and prevention policies, procedures, and practices. AAPACN will continue to keep the members of its subsidiary associations, the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) and the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services (AADNS), apprised of Coronavirus resources for LTPAC.
In Quality, Safety, and Oversight memorandum QSO 20-09-ALL, CMS said, “Understanding all of the various hazards to prepare for emergencies, such as 2019-nCoV, improves patient outcomes and provides protection to patients, family members as well as staff in healthcare settings.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that is mainly spread person-to-person. It can be transmitted:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), or
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or can possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may also be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes; however, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. (CDC, 2020)
People who exhibit symptoms are believed to be the most contagious. The symptoms of COVID-19 can range from mild to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath
Currently, there is no vaccine to protect individuals against COVID-19. The best way to protect your staff and residents is to avoid coming into contact with individuals who have been exposed to the virus. Prevention efforts are key to avoiding the spread of respiratory diseases. Preventive measures include:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- 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.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. (CDC 2020)
In addition to the above measures, be sure your facility has a process in place to screen residents, staff, volunteers, and visitors for symptoms. This may mean you need to update current policies. In addition to updating policies, you may also want to review and update your emergency preparedness plan to include what resources will be needed in the event of a community outbreak.
Staff and visitors need to be instructed to stay home if they present with respiratory symptoms. Residents who present with respiratory symptoms should be separated from other residents to avoid the spread of disease.
If you suspect a case of COVID-19, notify the physician and work with your local public health department and the CDC to determine if a resident requires testing for COVID-19.
AAPACN is posting the latest Coronavirus resources for LTPAC nurses and healthcare professionals daily. Visit our Coronavirus Resources for LTPAC webpage to learn more.