PREPARE STAFF

Health Care Personnel Screening

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are directing facilities to screen healthcare personnel (HCP) prior to allowing them to work or provide services in the facility.

The American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) has provided a health care personnel screening form.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration Guidance

What are OSHA’s recommendations regarding preventing exposure to staff?

There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. Among the most relevant are:

  • OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
    • When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
  • The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials that typically do not include respiratory secretions that may transmit COVID-19. However, the provisions of the standard offer a framework that may help control some sources of the virus, including exposures to body fluids (e.g., respiratory secretions) not covered by the standard.

Until more is known about how the COVID-19 spreads, CDC and OSHA recommend using a combination of standard precautions, contact precautions, airborne precautions, and eye protection (e.g., goggles or face shields) to protect healthcare workers with exposure to the virus.

CDC provides the most updated infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare workers managing suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

For more information, visit the OSHA website.

Should I encourage my staff that are sick to stay home?

  • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
  • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
  • CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).

What should I do about increased absenteeism due to the COVID-19?

  • Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members, dismissals of early childhood programs and K-12 schools due to high levels of absenteeism or illness:
    • Employers should plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace. Implement plans to continue your essential business functions in case you experience higher than usual absenteeism.
    • Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions so that the workplace is able to operate even if key staff members are absent.
    • Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products. Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations if needed).

What can I do to emphasize infection prevention and control?

  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

What type of environmental cleaning do I need to do?

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
  • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.

What should I do if an employee or the family is sick?

  • Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
  • Acknowledge the current situation and share only verified facts.
  • Refresh staff with reminder trainings on hand hygiene, proper use of personal protective equipment, and their responsibility to stay home when sick.
  • Reassure staff that it is a similar approach to closures due to weather emergencies – something they are more familiar and comfortable with.

PREPARE YOUR FACILITY

What can I do to prepare my facility?

  • Review your infection prevention and control policies and procedures for droplet precautions among residents and staff.
  • Assemble your Emergency Preparedness and Operations teams and prepare strategically for a potential spread of the virus.
  • Messaging to the ​people we serv​e is best received when the tone is calm, reassuring​, and direct. It is important to emphasize both how the entire community is preparing, as well as how individuals can prepare at home.
  • Communication with resident families is especially important during this time.
  • Staff communication is also important.
  • Ensure your response plan is flexible and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan.
  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected.
  • Share your plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them.
  • Share your best practices with others in your community to improve response efforts.
  • Post signs at the entrance instructing visitors not to visit if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
  • Identify dedicated employees to care for COVID-19 patients and provide infection control training.
  • Prepare for media inquiries.

What do I do about suspected/confirmed cases of COVID-19?

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are the first line of defense in healthcare facilities to shield healthcare workers, patients, and visitors from individuals with suspected/confirmed COVID-19. This includes physical barriers or partitions in triage areas to guide patients, curtains separating patients in semi-private areas, and airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIRs) with proper ventilation.

Place patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in an AIIR if available at the healthcare facility. AIIRs are single-patient rooms with negative pressure that provide a minimum of 6 air exchanges (existing structures) or 12 air exchanges (new construction or renovation) per hour. Ensure that the room air exhausts directly to the outside, or passes through a HEPA filter, if recirculated.

If an AIIR is not available, isolate the patient in a private room. Keep the door closed.

Isolation tents or other portable containment structures may serve as alternative patient-placement facilities when AIIRs are not available and/or examination room space is limited. Ensure that the room air exhausts directly to the outside, or passes through a HEPA filter, if recirculated.

The CDC/Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Healthcare Facilities contains additional information on negative-pressure room control for airborne infection isolation.

Administrative Controls

Consistent with the general interim guidance described above, isolate patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to prevent transmission of the disease to other individuals. If possible, isolating suspected cases separately from confirmed cases may also help prevent transmission.

Restrict the number of personnel entering the room of a patient with suspected/confirmed COVID-19. This may involve training healthcare workers in appropriate use of PPE so they can perform tasks such as housekeeping and meal service to reduce the need for environmental and food service workers to enter areas where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are isolated.

Follow CDC guidelines for signs for and labeling of patient room doors when transmission-based precautions (i.e., contact and airborne precautions) are in place.

Minimize aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs), performing only those that are necessary for clinical diagnosis and care of a patient. Minimize the number of staff present when performing AGPs.

Safe Work Practices

Perform as many tasks as possible in areas away from a patient with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 (e.g., do not remain in an isolation area to perform charting; use closed-circuit television systems to communicate with patients in an isolation area when a worker does not need to be physically present).

Work from clean to dirty (i.e., touching clean body sites or surfaces before touching dirty or heavily contaminated areas) and limit opportunities for touch contamination (e.g., adjusting glasses, rubbing nose, or touching face with gloves that have been in contact with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 patients or contaminated/potentially contaminated surfaces). Also, prevent touch contamination by avoiding unnecessary touching of environmental surfaces (such as light switches and door handles) with contaminated gloves.

Ensure that there are systems in place to: differentiate clean areas (e.g., where PPE is put on) from potentially contaminated areas (e.g., where PPE is removed); handle waste and other potentially infectious materials; and clean, disinfect, and maintain reusable equipment and PPE.

Use caution when handling needles or other sharps, and dispose of contaminated sharps in puncture-proof, labeled, closable sharps containers.

Train and retrain workers on how to follow the established protocols.

Personal Protective Equipment

Healthcare workers must use proper PPE when exposed to a patient with confirmed/suspected COVID-19 or other sources of COVID-19 (See OSHA’s PPE standards at 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I).

CDC and OSHA recommend that healthcare workers wear:

  • Gowns
  • Gloves
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified, disposable N95 or better respirators
  • Eye/face protection (e.g., goggles, face shield)

Use respiratory protection as part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134) and includes medical exams, fit testing, and training.

When doffing potentially contaminated PPE such as a N95 respirator, do not touch the outside of the respirator without wearing gloves.

After removing PPE, always wash hands with soap and water, if available. Ensure that hand hygiene facilities (e.g., sink or alcohol-based hand rub) are readily available at the point of use (e.g., at or adjacent to the PPE doffing area).

What disinfectants should I use?

  • Follow standard practices for high-level disinfection and sterilization of semi-critical and critical medical devices contaminated with COVID-19, as described in the CDC Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008.
  • At this time, there is no EPA-approved list of disinfectants effective against COVID-19. EPA does not categorize disinfectants as hospital- or commercial-grade or keep a list of EPA-registered antimicrobial products registered for use in healthcare facilities. As a result, products effective at inactivating the virus must be determined based on data associated with inactivating similar or hardier (i.e., more difficult to inactivate) viruses. COVID-19 is a coronavirus and highly susceptible to inactivation by many commonly used disinfectants. Currently, OSHA recommends following SARS disinfection practices (see section D-10 in the linked document) for environmental areas contaminated with COVID-19.

The CDC advises the use of EPA-registered chemical germicides that provide low or intermediate level disinfection for SARS during general use (surface and noncritical patient-care equipment) because these products inactivate related viruses with similar physical and biochemical properties. CDC’s Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008 provides information on the effectiveness of germicides on coronaviruses.

What guidance is there for those doing Home Care?

A healthcare professional should

Close contacts should also follow these recommendations:

  • Make sure that you understand and can help the patient follow their healthcare provider’s instructions for medication(s) and care. You should help the patient with basic needs in the home and provide support for getting groceries, prescriptions, and other personal needs.
  • Monitor the patient’s symptoms. If the patient is getting sicker, call his or her healthcare provider and tell them that the patient has laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected. Ask the healthcare provider to call the local or state health department for additional guidance. If the patient has a medical emergency and you need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that the patient has, or is being evaluated for COVID-19.
  • Household members should stay in another room or be separated from the patient as much as possible. Household members should use a separate bedroom and bathroom, if available.
  • Prohibit visitors who do not have an essential need to be in the home.
  • Household members should care for any pets in the home. Do not handle pets or other animals while sick.  For more information, see COVID-19 and Animals.
  • Make sure that shared spaces in the home have good air flow, such as by an air conditioner or an opened window, weather permitting.
  • Perform hand hygiene frequently. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 to 95% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • You and the patient should wear a facemask if you are in the same room.
  • Wear a disposable facemask and gloves when you touch or have contact with the patient’s blood, stool, or body fluids, such as saliva, sputum, nasal mucus, vomit, urine.
    • Throw out disposable facemasks and gloves after using them. Do not reuse.
    • When removing personal protective equipment, first remove and dispose of gloves. Then, immediately clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Next, remove and dispose of facemask, and immediately clean your hands again with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid sharing household items with the patient. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items. After the patient uses these items, you should wash them thoroughly (see below “Wash laundry thoroughly”).
  • Clean all “high-touch” surfaces, such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables, every day. Also, clean any surfaces that may have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
    • Use a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the label instructions. Labels contain instructions for safe and effective use of the cleaning product including precautions you should take when applying the product, such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.
  • Wash laundry thoroughly.
    • Immediately remove and wash clothes or bedding that have blood, stool, or body fluids on them.
    • Wear disposable gloves while handling soiled items and keep soiled items away from your body. Clean your hands (with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after removing your gloves.
    • Read and follow directions on labels of laundry or clothing items and detergent. In general, using a normal laundry detergent according to washing machine instructions and dry thoroughly using the warmest temperatures recommended on the clothing label.
  • Place all used disposable gloves, facemasks, and other contaminated items in a lined container before disposing of them with other household waste. Clean your hands (with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) immediately after handling these items. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Discuss any additional questions with your state or local health department or healthcare provider.