As coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and exposures continue to grow, we want to make sure you have the latest information as a local leader to protect the health and safety of our members and the public when responding to potential COVID-19 cases.
Below are some immediate actions you can take that are meant to supplement what you are likely already discussing and implementing in your department.
Information is constantly changing, so check our coronavirus resource online frequently for updates.
We will also be livestreaming a COVID-19 Briefing on Tuesday, March 10 from 8:00-9:00 a.m. (EDT) on our efforts to ensure we address the needs of our members on the frontlines responding to patients who may be infected or who are quarantined or isolated due to possible exposure.
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) RESOURCE
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its Interim Guidance for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Dispatch center call takers must inquire about flu-like symptoms, travel and exposure to help identify the potential for COVID-19. If a patient is showing signs of flu-like symptoms, regardless of travel, dispatch must include instructions of “PPE advised” to responding personnel.
Level of PPE Protection
When responding to a potential COVID-19 call, it is important to wear appropriate PPE. The CDC recommends N-95 masks, disposable gowns, gloves and eye protection, with placement of a surgical mask on the patient. Document all potential or confirmed exposures to COVID-19 in accordance with department protocol. For best practices, see https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/ppe/PPE-Sequence.pdf.
Decontamination of PPE and Apparatus
Follow CDC recommendations (see section on Cleaning EMS Transport Vehicles after Transporting a PUI or Patient with Confirmed COVID-19) for cleaning and disinfection procedures.
Inventory PPE Equipment
Make sure your department has adequate inventory of CDC-recommended PPE and is monitoring the availability of PPE with local and state medical supply vendors.
Quarantine and Isolation
If exposed to a confirmed positive COVID-19 patient, a member must enter a 14-day quarantine to monitor for signs and symptoms of the virus. CDC recommends exposed individuals await the onset of signs and symptoms (fever, cough, respiratory difficulty, etc.) prior to being tested. If the member shows signs or symptoms during quarantine, then a test should be conducted. If the test results are negative, the member must still remain in quarantine for the full 14 days. If it is positive, the member must then be moved to isolation.
Make sure your department has a defined policy on quarantine/isolation procedures. It is important to identify where members will be quarantined if they’ve been exposed to a positive COVID-19 patient, or isolated if members test positive for COVID-19.
Testing for COVID-19
To prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak, it is imperative that departments connect with local health departments to establish testing protocols and to ensure that they have the capabilities to perform the test. This test is a nasal and throat swab. CDC recommends the test be performed only on patients who present with signs of the virus and are symptomatic.
Administrative Issues/Workers' Compensation
Affiliates with collective bargaining agreements should review them thoroughly prior to an event requiring the quarantine or isolation of your members. If no agreement is in place, recommendations include meeting with management, human resources directors, workers’ compensation directors and other decision makers before a COVID-19 incident occurs. The goal of the meeting is to agree to administrative leave if your members are quarantined and to award workers’ compensability if infected. Ensure the agreement is in writing by all applicable parties.
In most jurisdictions, health and safety matters are a mandatory subject of bargaining. Some agencies may claim this is a management right. Most collective bargaining agreements exclude certain "management rights" from an agency’s duty to bargain. These can include the agency’s organizational structure, the ability to hire, assign and discipline employees and assign work among others. Although agencies may not be required to bargain over whether these management rights will be exercised, the union may be entitled to bargain as to how these rights are exercised. The process of negotiating over the procedures and arrangements is commonly referred to as "impact and implementation" bargaining. Affiliates with collective bargaining should review the collective bargaining agreement and state labor laws to determine what is permissible.
Non-collective bargaining states should also meet with their employer and other decision makers to ensure members are afforded administrative leave if quarantined or isolated and awarded workers’ compensability if infected with COVID-19.
This is a rapidly changing event - please refer to our Coronavirus resource for important information on preparedness and responding to infected individuals. This information will be updated as new information is released.