Frequently Asked Questions

Do cases of COVID-19 need to be reported?

Yes.  Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and those who have tested positive for COVID-19 should be reported to the appropriate authorities within your healthcare setting.  These cases will then be reported to local and state health departments and help the CDC and other agencies keep track of total infection rates.  Additionally, some hospitals may require that the Medical Examiner be consulted on all patients who die from COVID complications.

I’ve heard so much conflicting information about the coronavirus. When is someone considered to be infectious?

With the limited data gathered on this novel coronavirus in addition to trends seen with similar pathogens, the incubation time is likely between 2 and 14 days.  When self-quarantining, it is recommended to wait a full two weeks to see if symptoms emerge.  If someone has recovered from COVID-19, it is recommended they wait a full 3 days without symptoms, including fever, before being considered no longer contagious.

What treatment options are available for COVID-19 patients?

At this time, there are no approved medications for treating COVID-19.  Recommendations include symptom management and treatment of any secondary illnesses.  For more information about medications currently under investigation by the FDA for possible COVID treatments, click here.

What about gowns? Can single-use gowns be used more than once?

Even with limitations in PPE, it is not recommended that single-use gowns be reused.  If possible, prioritize the use of gowns during high-contact interactions with patients or during Aerosol-Generating Procedures.  Cloth gowns may also be used and then laundered when supply of single-use gowns dwindles.

What are the protocols for disposing of medical waste from COVID patients?

Currently, medical waste from COVID positive patients is being handled the same as medical waste from non-COVID patients.  Utilize the systems already in place at your healthcare facility.

What procedures are considered “Aerosol-Generating Procedures”?

According to the CDC, the most commonly performed Aerosol-Generating Procedures are: intubation, extubation, suctioning of airways, bronchoscopy, CPR and manual ventilation.  Use of positive pressure ventilation (CPAP, BiPAP) can aerosolize pathogens as well.  During any situation in which aerosolization may occur, ensure the use of proper PPE.

PPE in my area is very limited. Can I reuse my N95 respirator mask?

Yes.  When personal protective equipment is in short supply, it is acceptable to reuse N95s.  Don them with clean (non-sterile) gloves and, when not in use, keep your mask in a breathable container, such as a paper bag.  Label the container to ensure that your N95 is not utilized by anyone other than yourself.

I use nasopharyngeal swabs to test patients for COVID. What PPE is recommended for this procedure?

For swabbing patients with suspected COVID, personal protective equipment should include an N95 or higher-level respirator, eye protection, gown and gloves.

I’m an ICU nurse currently 5 months pregnant. Am I at a greater risk? How can I protect myself?

Unfortunately, data regarding COVID-19 and pregnancy is very limited.  Current guidelines recommend pregnant healthcare workers always utilize proper PPE, avoid patients who have had Aerosol-Generating Procedures, and/or limit the patients in their care to include only those who are not COVID positive and are not under investigation for possible COVID.

What additional precautions can be taken for surgical COVID patients?

Within the realm of possibility, having an OR and staff dedicated to surgical patients with COVID-19 can help minimize staff exposure.  Keep sterile fields covered, use proper PPE, especially during Aerosol-Generating Procedures, double bag any specimens obtained, etc.