By this point, people around the world have heard of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. Cruise ships have been denied entry into ports of call, and flights to and from infected countries have been canceled. The stock market is up and down and has lost up to 1,200 points in a single day. Worst of all, Washington state has reported nine deaths from coronavirus.
Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus. Whether COVID-19 is already here or entering the country through people who have visited infected countries, each of us can take steps to protect ourselves and our residents. Remember that your residents with chronic conditions have weakened immune systems, making them particularly susceptible to infection. Germs are everywhere!
By following the simple steps below, you and your staff can reduce the risk of illness at your community:
- Wash your hands properly and often. When in doubt: wash. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer.
- If you’re sick, please stay home. Don’t infect others
- If you need to sneeze, use the crook of your elbow or a tissue. If you do use a tissue, remember to wash your hands after discarding it.
- Place a notice on your facility’s entry doors advising visitors to visit another time. This is especially important if several of your residents are sick at the same time.
- Consider how you serve food in your dining room. Refrain from using salad bars and use plastic serving ware.
- Review the importance of frequently cleaning high-touch surfaces with housekeeping. These include things like railings, doorknobs, and elevator keypads. Have your director of housekeeping verify the expiration dates on all cleaning products and ensure that you have ample supplies.
- If you find a case of coronavirus on your campus, consult with a crisis communication group to determine the best way to handle this information once it becomes public knowledge.
- Have the names and contact numbers of city and county health departments readily available.
- Stay up-to-date on best practices as recommended by the CDC.
- Keep your residents, their family members, and your co-workers aware of the plans and steps you’ve implemented to help combat the spread of the virus.
So, you have a plan in place. You’ve instructed your co-workers on the proper use of gloves, the importance of handwashing, and why they should stay home if they’re ill. What’s next? Now is the perfect time to review your emergency preparedness plans. Do you have enough cleaning supplies? Are you stocked up on gloves, sanitizers, and masks? Do you have a pandemic plan?
Click here for a free download of our Caregiver Corner on infection control that you can print and use at your facility. You’ll find information about glove use, infection basics, the chain of infection, universal and standard precautions, and a handwashing recap.
While this blog isn’t focused on the H1N1 flu, the worksheet in our H1N1 Flu Preparation Guide can also be applied to coronavirus.