With more than 45 million cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. since the pandemic began, there is intense pressure to stop the spread of this deadly virus. Several federal mandates for expanding employee vaccination and testing have been recently announced. Booster shots are now available for most individuals and the eligibility for certain vaccines may soon include younger children. However progressive these steps may be, they are just one part of the COVID-19 solution in our healthcare facilities and communities.
Basic infection prevention practices and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are still vital to protect ourselves and others. The combination of vaccination, PPE and sanitation practices, such as correct and consistent hand hygiene, are still needed to strengthen infection prevention for healthcare facilities and businesses.
Protection and compliance
Healthcare facilities, especially nursing homes, have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s devastation. Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases and infection control has been a persistent problem for many nursing homes. These facilities rely on correct and consistent usage of PPE, such as masks, gloves and gowns, to protect their residents and staff. They also need PPE to comply with more stringent federal infection control regulations.
Failure to comply can be costly. In 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services imposed more than $10 million in fines on nursing homes for non-compliance with infection control requirements. The average penalty was $55,000. The most common type of non-compliance cited was improper use of PPE. Some of the deficiencies noted include staff not wearing PPE, lack of hand hygiene, and failure to change contaminated PPE. With the spread of the Delta variant and other COVID-19 variants, the focus on the use of PPE is not expected to wane.
All resources needed
The three available coronavirus vaccines are very good at protecting against severe cases of COVID-19, but they are not 100% effective in preventing infection. Additionally, as with many vaccines, protection weakens over time. This is especially true for older people or people with compromised immune systems.
Breakthrough COVID-19 infections can be caused by the Delta variant, which is more contagious and dangerous than some other COVID-19 variants. As of October 18, 2021, more than 189 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the agency has received reports of 41,127 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections who were hospitalized or died. The majority of these patients were age 65 and older. The median age of patients who died was 82 years.
Although, the vaccines and have been proven to be safe and effective. The COVID-19 pandemic is still a developing health crisis and researchers are working to learn more about the best methods of protection. The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people take additional precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
- Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of community transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated.
- People who are immunocompromised should follow current prevention measures (including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others they don’t live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces) regardless of their vaccination status.
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Get tested 5-7 days after close contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.
- Isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Follow any applicable federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.
PPE still needed
One of the main methods of COVID-19 transmission is through saliva droplets or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Even contact such as a conversation with an infected person can result in virus transmission. Researchers in the United Kingdom found that fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus just as easily as the unvaccinated, when in close contact. According to the study, “…fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.”
Nursing homes and assisted living communities are healthcare settings, but they also serve as a home for residents. These residents form close bonds with each other and the staff who care for them. This is why proper PPE use in facilities is essential to their safety, regardless of vaccination statuses.
Let us help
For more than 30 years, Supply360 has been a reliable provider of quality medical supplies to healthcare facilities. To support providers and those they serve, we offer a diverse range of affordably-priced PPE and a knowledgeable customer service team. To learn more about how Supply360 can help you, call 866-710-7626 to contact one of our friendly in-house team members.