The global spread of COVID-19 is affecting each of us. We are closely following the Minnesota Department of Health, CDC, and World Health Organization for updates and guidance. To stay up-to-date on the virus, please visit these sites as well as the John Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard.
Utmost in our minds is the quality and safety of our patient care and our employee’s well-being. Right now, this means being pro-active in taking some actions for the greater good.
This information has been sent to both AHC employees and AHC patients. I’m making this information public so that we demonstrate transparency during this crisis and communicate with our communities as best we can about how Accurate Home Care is responding to the Coronavirus. Success in stopping the spread of this virus will require cooperation by all parties. The guidance outlined below is based on MDH and CDC information – which will likely change as we learn more about how the virus behaves and transmits.
Pay attention to the following current recommendations from the MDH and CDC – Basic Guidance
As health care providers, we need to be vigilant about paying attention to basic, protective measures against this new coronavirus. The measures we should follow include:
Washing your hands
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Here is a link from the Centers for Disease Control which discusses how to wash your hands correctly.
Maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs and sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth (or both) which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Staying Home if You Feel Sick – Even Slightly Sick
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of this virus and other infections.
Do not touch your face
We touch many surfaces with our hands and unknowingly pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to our eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus enters your body and begins its incubation period, which is between 2-14 days, per CDC. During some of this time, you may be contagious and you likely won’t know it. About 97.5% of people who develop symptoms of COVID-19 will do so within 11.5 days of exposure.
Cover Your Mouth and Nose when you Cough or Sneeze
This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
School Closing Details, Day Care for Health Care Providers’ Children
On Sunday, March 15th, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz ordered all schools closed starting Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27. (For some school districts, these dates encompass Spring Break.) He is requesting that tribal and private schools follow the directives of his Executive Order. He is closing the schools to provide time for school staffs to plan for continuity of education during this pandemic while preserving the health and safety of our students, educators and the broader public.
During the closure period, schools are still expected to provide meals to their students. How this will work pragmatically is left to the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to figure out and then provide guidance to the districts.
He has also stressed the continuity of mental health services to children and families in his Executive Order (paragraph 9).
Finally, he has directed the schools to provide care to district-enrolled students aged 12 and under who are children of health care workers. The schools will not be required to provide such care during previously scheduled breaks on the school’s public calendar. He is encouraging schools to provide extended care before and after normal school hours. In addition, he is directing state agencies to “collaborate and align” resources to support childcare providers.
Our goal is to see how we can support a least-disruptive schedule of care for each patient we serve and for each employee of Accurate Home Care. However, for now, we need to wait to learn what the updated guidance is from the State.
Accurate’s Policies for Various Situations
What follows is an extended identification of various situations which AHC employees and families/patients may encounter. I have a brief discussion under each situation as to how AHC employees will manage that situation and what we are requesting our patients and their families to do as well.
Before I dive into each situation, here is global guidance that applies to all situations:
- AHC employees, AHC patients and their family members are expected to follow the minimum guidance outlined above (see Pay attention to following current recommendations from the MDH and CDC) in all situations and environments. This includes the use of AHC-supplied face masks, if available in the office or in the home of a patient. It is not acceptable for anyone to ignore this guidance. Please understand that, at the time of this writing, supplies, including personal protective equipment like masks, are being strictly allocated by all suppliers. Accurate Home Care will continuously work with suppliers to attempt to obtain protective equipment for our staff. In the instance that appropriate protective equipment is unavailable, we may be unable to provide care for symptomatic patients.
- Close contact is defined as being within six feet (basically two arm lengths) for a prolonged period. This usually results from caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 person or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 person, such as being coughed on.
- Even during this pandemic, HIPAA regulations about communication of patient information are still fully in-force and have not been relaxed by any governing authority.
Working with patients and/or in-home family members who have tested positive for COVID-19
If an AHC patient or one of their family members who lives in the home with the patient tests positive for COVID-19, we will not be able to service that patient unless we are able to obtain appropriate protective equipment (as outlined above). If we are unable to obtain appropriate protective equipment, then we will need a doctor’s confirmation in writing that they are no longer contagious and are free of the virus before we can provide services
Working with patients and/or in-home family member(s) who are in the process of being tested but have not received results and are not displaying any symptoms
Based on CDC guidance, at the time of this writing, if the family members are showing no symptoms, then we will act in this situation under the basic guidance given above. We will request the family do the same.
Working with patients and/or in-home family member(s) who are in the process of being tested but have not received results and are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19
We will ask the family member(s) to not only follow the basic guidance outlined above, but to self-quarantine while an AHC employee is in your home.
This is where it gets difficult. We recognize that our jobs are critical to the health and care of our patients, yet we need to allow room for our employees to protect themselves as well. Therefore, Accurate will allow a conscientious exemption for employees who are Care Providers, but have enough personal concern for their own health to object to working in a home for up to 14 days in which symptoms consistent with COVID-19 were displayed, during which time the patient and/or family members will have either been diagnosed with this virus or they will have shown they are not symptomatic.
Employee responsibilities when an employee has been exposed to a person who has COVID-19 or if the employee is being tested for COVID-19
In this situation, a Care Provider may voluntarily choose to self-quarantine. This Care Provider will be allowed to do so. This will have a 14-day limit. Accurate will do everything we can to find another care provider to work in place of the employee who is quarantined.
Employee responsibilities when an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or is showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19
An employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or is showing symptoms consistent with having the COVID-19 virus must immediately stop working (if they have not ceased working already) with patients and should self-quarantine for 14 days. A doctor’s unconditional release for work will be required before the employee will be allowed back to work. The employee is required to notify Accurate as soon as is reasonably possible to inform Accurate of their positive test or that s/he is sick and will be entering self-quarantine. Accurate will notify the responsible party of the patient as soon as reasonably possible and we will do everything we can to find another care provider to work in place of the employee who is quarantined.
Accurate will do what we reasonably can to ensure our Care Providers are not working with patients while displaying symptoms of the COVID-19 virus or with a confirmed diagnosis of the same. We’re asking our patients and their families to voluntarily work with us to show the same respect to our Care Providers.
If we work together, we can lower the opportunities for misunderstandings and quarrels while maintaining high-quality patient care in a safe environment for AHC employees and patients alike.
To our patients and their families, I want to let you know how honored we are that you have chosen us to be the provider of your care. We understand how personal and difficult it is to have non-family in your home as much as we are there. Thank you for your trust and confidence in us as a company and in your Care Providers.
To AHC employees, I want to say, “you’re the best!” Thank you for your professionalism and the high-quality care you provide each day to every one of our patients. You do a GREAT job and I’m proud to be working with you here at Accurate Home Care.
Bill English, CEO
Accurate Home Care