As we continue to 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. We continue to share information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state public health departments and county agencies, as well as best practices, as we become aware of them.
2021 COVID-19 Updates
Currently, the federal government has authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for Emergency Use and more are anticipated to be approved this year. All vaccines will be ordered through CDC. Vaccine providers will receive vaccines from CDC’s centralized distributor or directly from a vaccine manufacturer. The initial shipments of vaccines are being distributed by each state primarily through hospitals. As more vaccine supply is available, the next phase will include pharmacies and health clinics to accommodate more groups of eligible people. The local county health department will announce which groups are eligible for the vaccine in accordance with their vaccination roll-out plan.
Currently, two vaccines are authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19. Both require two injections several weeks apart. Please click on the link for more information:
Will the vaccine prevent me from getting COVID-19?
YES. 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, vaccine should be offered to you regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. However, current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired.
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.
If I get the COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?
NO. 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.
We are essential healthcare workers that are treating potential COVID-19 positive patients. Why aren’t we considered in the top group to be vaccinated?
Healthcare workers are considered to be in top group “Phase 1” of most state vaccination plans. However, the state/county may designate different tiers within “Phase 1” giving priority to frontline hospital works taking care of COVID-19 inpatients and long-term care workers and residents. Outpatient healthcare facilities may be in a lower tier, but still within the Phase 1 group and will receive the vaccine as more becomes available.
Is there a charge for the vaccine?
NO. 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?
YES. There is not enough information currently available to say if or when the CDC/state/local health departments will stop recommending that people wear masks and social distance to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.
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 more research is underway to determine whether they are still contagious to others. This is the main reason why masks and social distancing are still needed even after receiving the vaccine.
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.
- 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.
- “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