The recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus requires that all first responders take extra precautions to prevent any spread of this disease. The safety of our personnel, their families and the general public is important to us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines for dispatchers, law enforcement, firefighters and EMS personnel. These guidelines are timely and offer the best practices for keeping DESPP personnel safe when handling a patient with suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The outbreak first started in China, but cases have been identified in a growing number of other areas, including the United States.
Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness.
Data suggests that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Symptoms can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath.
The virus causing COVID-19 is called SARS-CoV-2. It is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets among close contacts. Respiratory droplets are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can land in the mouths or noses, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs, of people who are nearby. o Close contact increases your risk for COVID-19, including:
Being within approximately 6 feet of an individual with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time.
Having direct contact with body fluids (such as blood, phlegm, and respiratory droplets) from an individual with COVID-19.
First responders play a crucial role in answering calls for help, triaging patients, and providing emergency treatment to patients. The response often requires split-second medical decision-making and interventions with limited information. Frequently, it is impossible to determine patient history before administering emergency care. The CDC offers these recommendations: DISPATCHERS Dispatchers should screen callers for symptoms and risk factors of COVID-19.
Dispatchers should ask the patient:
Has the patient recently traveled from an affected area?
Has the patient been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or pneumonia of unknown cause?
Does the patient reside in an area where there has been community spread of COVID-19? Dispatchers should relay this information to first responders before they get to the location so they can put on the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). Dispatchers should also instruct the patient to meet the Trooper outside upon their arrival, when possible. If the caller is seeking general information, the Dispatcher should refer the caller to 211.
RESPONDERS The CDC urges responders to carry PPE with them at all times; PPE offers the barrier of protection essential to treating a patient. Put on the PPE appropriate for suspected cases of COVID-19 before entering the scene.
If possible, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet.
Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available and illicit drugs are NOT suspected to be present, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Do not touch your face with unwashed hands. Have a trained Emergency Medical Service/ Emergency Medical Technician (EMS/EMT) assess and transport anyone you think might have COVID-19 to a healthcare facility.
Ensure only trained personnel wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) have contact with individuals who have or may have COVID-19. Page 3 of 3 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Use of standard, contact and droplet precautions is sufficient for most situations when treating a patient with a suspected case of COVID-19 as defined above.
When responding to a scene with an infected person, personnel should wear:
A single pair of disposable examination gloves, Disposable isolation gown or single-use/disposable coveralls*
Any NIOSH-approved particulate respirator (i.e., N-95 or higher-level respirator), and
Eye protection (i.e., goggles or disposable face shield that fully covers the front and sides of the face)
*If unable to wear a disposable gown or coveralls because it limits access to duty belt and gear, ensure duty belt and gear are disinfected after contact with individual. If Close Contact Occurred During Apprehension
Clean and disinfect duty belt and gear prior to use, using a household cleaning spray or wipe, according to the product label instructions. Follow standard operating procedures for the containment and disposal of used PPE.
Follow standard operating procedures for containing and laundering clothes. Avoid shaking the clothes NOTE For law enforcement personnel performing daily routine activities, the immediate health risk is considered low. Law enforcement personnel should follow CDC’s Interim General Business Guidance.
It is recommended that you check the CDC Guidelines frequently. We are in a fluid environment and things are rapidly changing.