ION’s Response & Proactive Measures

Regarding COVID-19

As we adjust to the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, our goal remains: to keep our patients, team members and physicians safe and healthy while continuing to provide compassionate, high-quality care under circumstances we have never had to face before.

 

2021 COVID-19 Updates

 

The CDC recently provided some exciting updated guidance that allows fully vaccinated individuals to relax prior health interventions in most public areas. However, these recommendations do not apply to healthcare settings.

The CDC and most state and county health departments continue to recommend that healthcare providers follow all current COVID prevention protocols to protect themselves and others from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Many of our patients and some team members have weakened immune systems and are not/cannot get vaccinated. At this time, we will continue the current safety practices which have proven successful at keeping COVID transmissions down in our centers, which includes wearing a face mask at work, social distancing, frequent sanitizing, and limiting the number of visitors.

As the number of new cases continues to drop and the rate of vaccinations increases, we will continue to assess our situation and consult with the CDC, state, and local county health departments for guidance.

COVID Vaccines

Currently, three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized and recommended by the CDC to prevent COVID-19. The vaccines are now more widely accessible and have been approved for ages 12 and older.

Please click on the link for more information:

FAQ

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccination?
Studies show that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19 by building antibodies. It is the antibodies that protect you from getting sick with COVID-19. Being protected is important because although many people with COVID-19 have only a mild illness, others may get a severe illness, have long-term health effects, or even die. There is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you, even if you do not have an increased risk of developing severe complications.

I already had COVID-19 and recovered. Do I still need to get a vaccine?
YES. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, you should get vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Can I still get COVID-19 right after getting my first/second injection of vaccine?
YES. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

Can I get the COVID vaccine while I am still sick with COVID-19?
NO. People with COVID-19 who have symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they have recovered from their illness and have met the criteria for discontinuing isolation. Asymptomatic positive individuals should also wait until they meet the criteria before getting vaccinated. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine.

If I get the COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?
The current authorized vaccines and those currently in clinical trial in the U.S. cannot cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests which are used to determine if you have a current infection.

I am interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Where can I find more information?
Your local county health department will have the most current information on vaccine availability, eligible groups according to their vaccination plan, and where to go to receive your vaccination. Your physician may also have information or may be able to schedule you for a COVID-19 vaccination, especially if you are in a higher-tier group. Additional resources include Vaccines.gov to find vaccination providers near you and your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination appointments are available.

Is there a charge for the vaccine?
There is no charge for the COVID-19 vaccine. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee for giving the shot to someone. This fee is reimbursed by the team member’s insurance company or, for uninsured members, by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.

Do I still have to wear a mask and social distance once I’ve gotten my COVID-19 vaccination?
It depends. Once you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing many things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic, like gathering indoors with other vaccinated individuals. However, you still have to wear a mask if you have symptoms, are in a healthcare setting, or where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

Can I still pass COVID-19 to someone else if I have been vaccinated?
There is not enough data to determine whether the vaccine prevents someone from carrying COVID-19 and infecting others. It is possible that someone could get the vaccine but still be an asymptomatic carrier. The vaccine protects the person who was vaccinated but experts continue to evaluate how well the vaccines prevent the viral spread from vaccinated individuals, how long protection the protection lasts, and how well the current vaccines protect against the new COVID-19 virus variants.

How long does protection from the COVID-19 vaccination last?
We don’t know how long protection lasts for those who are vaccinated. Experts are working to learn more about both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity.

 

Best Practices to Prepare Your Center for COVID-19

 

CDC recommends using additional infection prevention and control practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with standard practices recommended as a part of routine healthcare delivery to all patients. These practices are intended to apply to all patients, not just those with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection.

Before the Patient Arrives:

  • Prepare the clinic.
    • Daily health checks/symptom screening must be done by each team member prior to coming into work.
    • Consider and plan for providing more telemedicine appointments.
    • Assess and restock supplies now and on a regular schedule.
    • Know how to contact your health department.
    • Stay connected with your health department to know about COVID-19 in your community. Step up precautions when the virus is spreading in your community.
  • Communicate with patients.
    • Ask patients about symptoms during appointment reminder calls. (Symptoms of COVID-19)
    • Advise patients that they should put on their own cloth mask before entering the facility.
    • Instruct patients to call ahead and discuss the need to reschedule their appointment if they have symptoms of COVID-19 within the 10 days prior to their appointment, if they have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection within the 10 days prior to their appointment, or if they have had close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection within 14 days prior to their scheduled appointment.
    • Consider scheduling known positive patients at the end of the day to minimize exposure.
  • Post signs at entrances and in waiting areas about prevention actions, including hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene (including the use of cloth face coverings) and cough etiquette. (Stop the Spread of Germs)
  • Prepare the waiting area and patient rooms.
    • Provide supplies – tissues, alcohol-based hand rub, soap at sinks and trash cans.
    • Place chairs 6 feet apart, when possible. Use barriers (like screens), if possible.
    • Remove magazines, books, puzzles, or other communal objects, to prevent the spread of germs.
    • Remove waiting room coffee pots or water dispensers or limit them to team member access to obtain beverages for patients.

When the Patient Arrives:

  • Team members at the entrance should again ask patients about their symptoms.
    • Provide symptomatic patients with tissues or facemasks to cover mouth and nose.
    • Limit non-patient visitors.
  • Allow patients to wait outside or in the car if they are medically able, until they are called into the facility for their appointment.
  • Patients with suspected COVID-19 symptoms will be rescheduled until they receive their test results, unless it is a life-threatening circumstance.
  • If treating known sick patients, separate sick patients with symptoms.
    • Set up waiting rooms to allow patients to be at least 6 feet apart.
    • Create separate spaces in waiting areas for sick and well patients.
    • Place sick patients in a private room as quickly as possible.

After the Patient Leaves:

  • After patients leave, clean frequently touched surfaces using EPA-registered disinfectants – counters, beds, seating.

 

Key Takeaways

 

  • Keen initial intake/screening must be done on each patient, family member or support person ahead of time and upon entry to the facility.
  • All team members must continue to wear masks at work and social distance.
  • All team members must conduct health checks/screenings prior to arriving to work.
  • If you were exposed to a known positive person:
    • Inform your supervisor to determine next steps.
    • Consider getting tested.
    • Wait for guidance before returning to work.
  • Practice good hygiene to protect yourself and others from the virus.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing the “ABC” song until the very end!).
    • Ensure gel sanitizers are in the lobbies and throughout the center.
    • Use hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol until you can wash your hands with soap and water.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth without washing your hands first.
    • Be as healthy as you can. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and manage your stress.
    • Eliminate/minimize contact from handshakes and hugs – use the “elbow bump.”
    • Have masks, gloves and protective eye wear readily available.
    • Be conscious of inventory and usage of masks, gloves and protective eye wear. These items may be on backorder with many vendors. Strategies for optimizing the supply of PPE can be found on the CDC website.

PPE – how to don and remove them:

  • Instructions for donning PPE can be found here: CDC recommended sequences for donning and doffing of PPE.
  • It is important for Health Care Providers (HCP) to perform hand hygiene before and after removing PPE. Hand hygiene should be performed by using alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60-95% alcohol or washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If hands are visibly soiled, soap and water should be used before returning to alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Deep cleaning.

  • “HIGH TOUCH” surfaces should be disinfected frequently/after every patient (door knobs, light switches, treatment chairs and tables, etc.).
  • Routine cleaning and disinfection procedures are appropriate for COVID-19 in healthcare settings, including those patient-care areas in which aerosol-generating procedures are performed. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are recommended for use against COVID-19.
  • A list of EPA-approved disinfectants for COVID-19 can be found on the EPA website.

Practice social distancing.

  • Maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) between yourself and others.
  • Avoid mass gatherings of more than 10 people in public; ideally no more than 3.

If you feel as though you are getting sick, please stay home and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

  • Symptoms for COVID-19 can be found on the CDC website.

Key points to protect yourself and others:

  • Social Distancing – avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people, maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between yourself and others when possible, particularly those that are coughing, sneezing and demonstrating symptoms.
  • Use drive-thru, pick-up or delivery options – do not eat at bars, restaurants or food courts.
  • Avoid discretionary travel – shopping trips, social visits, etc.
  • If you feel sick, stay home!
  • If your children are sick, keep them home and call your medical provider.
  • If someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19, keep the entire family at home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Contact your medical provider.
  • Stay informed:

 

 

We hope that you find the above information helpful and encourage you to reach out to your supervisor should you have any questions or concerns. Stay safe and healthy during this time.

– The Integrated Oncology Network Team