Quality and Population Health

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Update

COVID-19 Conference Call for EH Medical Staff

All EH medical staff are invited to join a conference call to learn more about COVID-19, with an emphasis on our preparations. Call will be led by:

  • Stephen Brunnquell, MD, President, EHPN
  • Hillary Cohen, MD, VP, Medical Affairs and Chief of Emergency Medicine
  • Ashwin Jathavedam, MD, Chief of Infectious Disease

Thursday, March 5, 2020, 7:30 a.m.

Thursday, March 5, 2020, 7:00 p.m.

1 862-294-2588   Conference ID: 981 214 203#

Or join in person – Taub Family Education Center, Room 5503 (Berrie)

The first portion of the call will be an overview of the preparedness efforts. All participants will be muted. A Q&A session will follow. Please use *6 to unmute yourself.

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We continue to monitor the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and make preparations to help prevent its spread here and for treating a potential patient. The following is an update on testing and reminders about prevention.

Patient Testing

Testing is now available through the NJ Department of Health, not only through CDC. However, testing will only be performed on specimens collected from patients who meet the criteria below AND who have been preapproved for testing by state public health authorities.

Criteria for Testing

Clinical Features Epidemiological Risk
Fever or signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g. cough or shortness of breath) AND Any person, including healthcare workers, who has had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
Fever and signs/symptoms of a lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) requiring hospitalization AND A history of travel from affected geographic areas* within 14 days of symptom onset
Fever with severe acute lower respiratory illness (e.g., pneumonia, ARDS) requiring hospitalization and without alternative explanatory diagnosis (e.g., influenza) AND No source of exposure has been identified

*As of February 28, the affected geographic regions are China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

Handling Symptomatic Patients

EHPN practices should be prepared to triage patients via telephone instead of having patients come to the office. Health authorities are encouraging people to call ahead to their doctor’s office to review their symptoms and exposure risk.

A patient who presents to the Emergency Department or an EHPN practice with respiratory illness should be:

  • Screened for symptoms, recent travel, and potential exposure (using criteria for testing in the table above).
  • Given a surgical/procedural mask. This will help prevent the spread of flu, not just COVID-19, so should be given to all patients with symptoms of a respiratory illness.
  • Immediately isolated in a private room with the door closed, ideally in an airborne infection isolation room or a room where the exhaust is recirculated with HEPA filtration. If this is not possible (such as in the practices), do you best to segregate the patient from other patients.

If a patient meets the criteria for testing, providers must follow these instructions to request approval from NJDOH and collect specimens.

Healthcare personnel entering the rooms should follow standard, contact, and airborne precautions and wear gown, gloves, eye protection and an N95 mask. Limit the number of personnel coming into contact with the patient.  

Treatment

There is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required. As a reminder, even though this is a novel virus – meaning there is limited immunity within the population – every day we routinely care for patients at both the hospital and in our physician offices with respiratory illnesses that are managed similar to COVID-19.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Units and practices should be extra vigilant in cleaning patient care areas, using bleach wipes after patient care activities, following manufacturer guidelines for dwell or wet time.

Prevention

There are simple everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. These include:

  • Avoid close contact 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 hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should:

  • Stay home when you 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.

Further Updates

We will continue to keep you updated as this situation evolves. The Infection Prevention page on the ePortal has the most up-to-date messages and resources. You may also consult the websites of the CDC and/or NJDOH for more information.