Update: COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

February 28, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

Per a recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control, the public is being advised that the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) situation is rapidly progressing. There is sustained transmission in countries outside of China (South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran). More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States.

Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the U.S. may translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. At Michigan Medicine, we are actively preparing for this scenario. The safety of our staff, faculty and learners, and all of our patients and visitors, are at the forefront of our planning efforts. 

Since the identification of COVID-19 in January 2020, Michigan Medicine has implemented strategies to rapidly identify and isolate patients with risk factors for COVID-19 to ensure proper precautions are taken. Screening for patients and visitors is in place and updates are being made as more information becomes available. 

From a workforce member standpoint, those that have traveled to areas with sustained transmission in the last 14 days are asked to self-identify to Occupational Health Services and monitor for symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath).

As COVID-19 continues to spread, plans for caring for larger numbers of ill patients are being developed. This includes where the care would occur, how to conserve and utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ensure that health care workers are able to put on and take off PPE safely, and allocating resources appropriately.

It is important to know facts about the disease to ensure you, your patients and colleagues have the right information. 

COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Spread is primarily from respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. In addition, direct contact with respiratory secretions is also a potential mechanism for spread.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Michigan Medicine hospital disinfectants, including Oxivir-1 and bleach, are effective against coronaviruses to disinfect hard surfaces. 

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this with the new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services has stated any hospital should be able to care for these patients and that there is not the tiered hospital network like there was for Ebola. 80% of cases seem to be minor and the mortality rate is around 2%.  

Isolation precautions we use for other respiratory diseases are effective for preventing transmission of COVID-19. Key actions include:

  • Put a mask on the patient
  • Ensure appropriate placement of a patient in a single room with the door closed. Use a negative pressure room when available.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) upon entry into a patient room (gloves, isolation gown, N-95 mask or PAPR, eye protection).
  • Limit transport and movement of patients outside of the room.

Basic respiratory virus control behaviors are still critical for managing in the face of corona:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For the most current protocols and training materials, please visit the Infection Prevention COVID-19 webpage, which will be updated weekly or as needed:  http://www.med.umich.edu/i/ice/resources/coronavirus.html.