Important COVID-19 Employer Information from Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System

Monday, March 23, 2020

On March 18, the Spartanburg Chamber hosted an employer conference call with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Chris Lombardozzi. SRHS’s goal is to help employers make informed decisions and guide employees, as well as avoid unnecessary emergency center visits and exposure to COVID-19.

Click here to access a recording of the call. You will be asked to provide your contact information. 

Highlights from the call

Overview of COVID-19:

  • COVID19 Symptoms vary from mild (more than 80%) to moderate or severe (less than 10%)
  • Very few people require hospitalization
  • Vulnerable populations (elderly and those with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions like heart and lung disease) are at highest risk for severe illness
  • Less emphasis is being made on travel history due to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. Domestic hotspots include Washington state and New York
  • We fully expect community spread in the Upstate

Testing:

  • There is concern about COVID-19 testing. Testing criteria, guidelines and questionnaires are in place to identify high-risk patients who may have the virus. In the absence of symptoms and criteria, there is no indication or requirement for testing.

Options for care and treatment:

  • Those with mild symptoms will be advised to isolate themselves at home for 14 days.
  • If you are sick and looking to differentiate your symptoms between the flu and coronavirus, click here.
  • If you are not experiencing coronavirus symptoms, you can have a virtual care visit with a provider.
  • MUSC is offering virtual health screenings that will refer patients to the nearest care facility.
  • If you are not experiencing a medical emergency, please contact your primary care physician or local immediate care center.
  • SRHS also has five Immediate Care Centers. You may check-in online ahead of time and reserve your spot in line here or by calling 864-591-7999.

Preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • The virus is easily killed. Wash your hands often or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to protect yourself from germs.
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
  • Emphasize staying home when sick, covering your cough and practicing good hand hygiene to all employees.
  • Increase environmental cleaning.
    • Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs.
    • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
  • Refer to these CDC resources that provide more information about how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in your business (Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations)
  • Practice social distancing in the workplace to slow the spread of the illness. This means standing or sitting at least six feet apart from other individuals.

Return to work:

  • SRHS follows CDC guidelines.  As these may change we are not publishing them here, but generally speaking, expect that employees who are sick and not tested, and for whom another cause of illness is much less likely, may be asked to be on home isolation for up to 14 days, and employees who are tested, will also be on home isolation pending results.  The current expectation of test results is 4-7 days following testing.  Your provider will give specific instructions.   Return to work should be coordinated with Primary Care Offices or Intermediate Care Offices.
  • CDC guidance asks that employers do not require a healthcare provider's note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way. We urge you to comply with this guidance if legally possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should employers take temperatures as a screening tool?

SRHS officials do not recommend taking temperatures as a screening tool in the workplace. An employee’s body temperature is not a decisive method/tool to assess if someone has been infected by the coronavirus. During a pandemic, employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may ask employees who call in sick if they are experiencing symptoms of the virus. For COVID-19, these include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat. If an employee is ill, employers must maintain all information about employee illnesses as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA. 

Some employers are telling employees that they need to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work if they have a respiratory illness. If tests are limited, what should be advised to employees?

According to the CDC, employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.

Do not require a healthcare provider’s note or negative COVID-19 test for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

 The key is defining the interaction or contact and ascertaining whether low or medium risk. It would also be advisable to use the MUSC.care site with promo code COVID19 to help determine next steps. Low-risk cases with no symptoms require no restriction in movement and only self-observation for 14 days. Low-risk cases with symptoms recommend self-isolation and social distancing. Medium-risk cases recommend self-isolation and active monitoring if no symptoms. The CDC offers more guidance here

Employers cannot obtain cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, is it safe to make some or should we use other products? What is recommended in an office setting where there is public contact?

The CDC provides a list of recommended cleaning materials for disinfection:

  • Chemical Disinfectants
  • Alcohol
  • Chlorine and chlorine compounds
  • Formaldehyde
  • Glutaraldehyde
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Iodophors
  • Ortho-phthalaldehyde (OPA)
  • Peracetic acid
  • Peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide
  • Phenolics
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds
  • Miscellaneous Inactivating Agents
  • Other germicides
  • Metals as microbicides
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Pasteurization
  • Flushing- and washer-disinfectors

The CDC recommends the following guidelines for businesses and employers:

  • Emphasize staying home when sick, practice respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.
  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

If an employee is diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, what sanitization procedure should be followed?

If an employee is confirmed with COVID-19, employers should maintain confidentiality of the patient. Consider who was in close contact with the patient and areas that the patient inhabited for long amounts of time. However, do this in a way where you do not create alarm. Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. In addition, the employer should disinfect the building with the above noted cleaning guidelines.

What information should employers track such as age, exposure direct or indirect-just in case there is an outbreak in a specific area we want to be helpful to the medical professionals?

Any information that can be gathered and shared confidentially is beneficial. Consider who was in close contact with the patient and areas that they inhabited for long amounts of time. However, do this in a way where you do not create alarm in the place of business.
 

A community member received an email that they were at an event and in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Should they be tested or self-quarantine?

Those who were in contact with a positive COVID-19 patient are not considered a case. However, those who have had close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case should be asked to self-isolate and self-monitor at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case. You can also elect to initiate a screening using MUSC.care with promo code COVID19.

Can COVID-19 evolve into pneumonia?

Older adults and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease have a higher chance of developing complications, such as pneumonia.

If employees choose to participate in discretionary travel, what precautions should be taken to protect the team and community upon their return?

After traveling, employees should stay home for 14 days and self-monitor, in addition, to practicing social distancing when returning. This list is ever-changing, please reference CDC site links below. If the employee develops symptoms associated with COVID-19 or comes in close contact with someone with COVID-19 while traveling the employee should stay home for 14 days as above.

 Before traveling, employees should take certain steps from the CDC:

  • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
  • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
  • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.

For more information, visit the following CDC pages:
Traveling Outside the US
Within the US 

SRHS Corporate Health has also issued the following guidelines:
SRHS Corporate Health has suspended the annual testing for any respirator use that is not medically essential and only performing when medically essential. 


Chris Lombardozzi, MD, FACEP
VP & Chief Medical Officer, Quality
Spartanburg Regional Medical Center

 

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