Pandemic Preparation: Avoiding Panic, Embracing Education and Prevention
Family Promise is dedicated to providing safe environments for guest families, volunteers and staff. In response to coronavirus concern, Family Promise has consulted with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to develop this pandemic prevention plan.
Coronavirus is a familiar respiratory illness. It was first identified in the mid-1960s. The strain being tracked now, COVID-19 (COrona VIrus Disease),is a new strain named for its link to the first reported cases, in 2019, in Wuhan, China. It can be spread person-to-person, similar to influenza and other respiratory illnesses. As of right now, there is significant concern internationally, as the majority of reported cases are in people who traveled directly to the region, but experts are preparing for the possibility of widespread activity, in the U.S.There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Any infected person can seek medical treatment for symptom relief. There is also no vaccine to protect against it. Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with the following symptoms:
•Shortness of breath
Severe complications from this virus have included pneumonia in both lungs.
The CDC does not have any current scientific documentation surrounding pregnant women and children. But, generally speaking, pregnancy causes immunologic and physiologic changes which may make women more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Additionally, there have been a limited number of cases in children, presenting with cold-like symptoms and at least one case with gastrointestinal symptoms. The CDC intends to keep updated information specific to pregnant women and children on this page. For more information on different strains of the coronavirus, click here.
Person-to-person infection spreads in the following ways:
•Between people in close contact with each other (within 6ft)
•Via respiratory droplets spread during coughing or sneezing, these can also land on surfaces and be infect someone that way.
The CDC recommends the following for preventing the spread of COVID-19:
•Avoid close contact (within 6ft) with people who are sick.
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
•Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20-seconds. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer (contains at least 65% alcohol), if soap and water are not available.
•Perform routine cleaning on all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, door knobs and countertops. Follow instructions provided on disinfecting products and supply proper cleaning materials.
•Provide disposable wipes, to be used on the most commonly used surfaces.
•Provide tissues throughout a living or workspace, to cover the mouth and nose when coughing/sneezing.
•Provide touch-free waste bins for discarded tissues.
•Consider posting information from the CDCs coughing and sneezing etiquette website, as well as the clean hands website, to encourage containing droplets spread by coughing/sneezing.
•Encourage employees/volunteers with symptoms of a respiratory illness to stay home until they are free of a fever for at least 24-hours, without fever-reducing medication.
•Consider having medical face masks/respirators for symptomatic individuals, to contain droplets when coughing/sneezing, if symptoms begin while at work or are experienced by guest families.
Anyone with symptoms should be isolated from other individuals and appropriate precautions, to contain the spread of the illness using the prevention strategies(see above), should be taken. While there is no known anti-viral treatment for CORVID-19 the individual can seek medical attention to confirm diagnosis and treat symptoms. Family Promise Affiliates should make plans to accommodate the isolation of infected individuals, including designating space at the Day Center/Static Site, to limit exposure to healthy family members and other volunteers.In some cases, some Affiliates may consider using an off-site location such as a hotel, for isolation during the contamination period. If your state or local health department indicates an elevated threat to your community, your Affiliate may want to consider revisiting its intake policy. The Affiliate staff should work closely with the local agencies, such at the local health department, to devise a strategy which is both responsible and responsive, to families in crisis.
Clearly communicate with your partner sites about your prevention strategies and your containment plan, in the event of widespread activity.Encourage them to implement similar prevention strategies at their sites, including asking any ill volunteers to stay away from guest families. Information and communication are critical. Make sure that all your Affiliate’s constituents: people being served, employees, interns, day center volunteers are fully informed on precautions and the importance of alerting the ED if symptoms arise. Visibly post and verbally reinforce hygiene best practices.
•COVID-19 is highly contagious; however, it is more similar to the seasonal flu than to highly pernicious diseases like Ebola.
•Universal precautions should always be followed; you want to intensify awareness and application of them and secure items like tissues, wipes, sanitizer, etc.to reinforce those best practices.
•Stay connected to your local public health authorities and your CoC for advisories for your community.
•People get sick; it does not mean they have COVID. However, be well-acquainted with the symptoms and the protocols to protect everyone involved with your Affiliate and to prevent contagion.
•Communicate: Make your partners aware that you have protocols and are following them. Make sure your host sites keep you informed of any health issues with their members or any protocols they are putting in place. Your hosts will want to hear that you are prepared and capable of taking action to secure the health of the people you serve and those who volunteer.
•Develop containment plans: Work with your host sites, CoC, and public health authorities for locations where families can stay if there is contagion within your Affiliate or your partners.Consider the day center as the most likely location, and gather resources (beds, food, etc.) and personnel in case you may need to shelter in place.
•Identify if you have people who are immune-compromised and consider options to limit their exposure (i.e. placing in motels or housing, rather than shelter).