COVID-19 News Updates
Editor’s note: Information about the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly developing. Below, The Synergist summarizes some of the most recent news on the novel coronavirus as of April 1. National Academies Releases Guidance on Crisis Standards of Care A new publication from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine addresses concerns related to the adoption of “crisis standards of care,” or CSC, which the publication defines as an approach to healthcare intended to save the most lives possible while “recognizing that some individual patients will die, who would survive under usual care.” In contrast to “contingency care,” which seeks to extend the provision of normal, “functionally equivalent” care at times when demand for care exceeds supply, CSC is intended for situations when “resources are so depleted that functionally equivalent care is no longer possible.” The publication specifies a dwindling supply of protective equipment as one indication that CSC is necessary. “Preparing for CSC means taking all feasible measures—including reuse, substitution, conservation, and administrative controls—to prevent or delay the need for CSC as long as possible,” the guidance reads. The publication also emphasizes the need to support healthcare workers in light of the physical and emotional stresses of decision-making under CSC. Manual Explains Design, Management of Treatment Centers for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections The World Health Organization has published a manual explaining how to set up a Severe Acute Respiratory Infection treatment center. Intended to help healthcare facilities meet the needs of communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the manual includes recommendations, technical guidance, standards, and minimum requirements for operating these treatment centers in settings with limited resources. Among the topics covered are water supply, waste disposal and management, cleaning, ventilation, and hygiene. The manual indicates that the SARI centers are for use “in healthcare settings in precarious situations and in situations where simple and affordable measures can improve hygiene and health significantly.”
Training Tool Available for Responders, Workers with Potential COVID-19 Exposure Following Congressional approval March 6 of funding for training to prevent and reduce exposure of workers to the new coronavirus, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has developed training materials for responders and other workers who are at risk of exposure through their work. The worker-based training is available as a PowerPoint file, a PDF, or an interactive online version. The training has separate modules addressing basic information about COVID-19, assessing risk of exposure in the workplace, and methods of prevention. The training also includes information about the hierarchy of controls and the differences between respirators and face masks. A press release from NIEHS’ parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, indicates that additional materials will be developed for the NIEHS site with the goal of protecting emergency medical personnel, firefighters, law enforcement officers, environmental cleanup workers, high-risk custodial service workers, food processing and delivery workers, water and sewage treatment workers, sanitation workers, and healthcare facility employees. CDC Releases Return-to-Work Guidelines for Healthcare Workers Interim guidelines released last week by CDC describe two strategies occupational health programs and public officials can use to determine whether healthcare workers who have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 can return to work. The test-based strategy recommends that healthcare professionals do not return to work until their fever has subsided without the use of fever-reducing medication; their respiratory symptoms, including cough and shortness of breath, have improved; and they have received negative results from a COVID-19 test approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected at least 24 hours apart. The non-test-based strategy recommends that affected healthcare professionals return to work after at least three days have passed since the resolution of their fevers and improvement of their respiratory symptoms, and at least seven days have passed since their symptoms first appeared. Read more.   CDC: Asymptomatic Transmission Contributed to Severity of Cruise Ship Outbreak Nearly half of the passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for the new coronavirus did not have symptoms at the time of testing, according to a report from CDC. The Diamond Princess was the setting of the largest COVID-19 outbreak outside China in the early stages of the pandemic. Read more. PPE Calculator Helps Healthcare Facilities Optimize Supplies A spreadsheet available from CDC allows healthcare facilities optimize the use of personal protective equipment for response to COVID-19. The tool calculates the average consumption rate of PPE such as gowns, respirators, gloves, surgical masks, and face shields. Healthcare facilities can use the calculations to estimate the remaining supply of these items.   LitCovid Collects Scientific Literature on COVID-19 LitCovid, a new website supported by the National Institutes of Health, provides free access to the growing body of scientific literature on COVID-19. Updated daily, LitCovid includes more than 1,700 articles from the PubMed search engine. The articles are categorized into several topics, including general information, findings from genetic sequencing and image analysis, characteristics of transmission, methods for detection and treatment, case reports, and estimates of disease spread.

A new publication from the National Academies defines “crisis standards of care” as an approach to healthcare intended to save the most lives possible while “recognizing that some individual patients will die, who would survive under usual care.”