April 23, 2020

COVID-19 Weekly Roundup: Disinfecting Elastomeric Respirators, Reducing Cashiers’ Exposures, and More

News briefs related to the COVID-19 pandemic from The Synergist:

IRSST updates guidance on disinfecting elastomeric respirators. The Quebec-based research organization IRSST has published an updated procedure for cleaning elastomeric respirators for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elastomeric respirators may be valuable in cases where N95 respirators are in short supply.

Barriers for reducing cashiers’ exposure. IRSST also published recommendations for protecting store cashiers, who come into contact with many members of the public and are therefore at increased risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. IRSST recommends a transparent polyethylene barrier that separates customers from a cashier’s work area. Additional separation can be achieved by using only every second checkout counter, having customers bag their own goods, and using contactless payment. In grocery stores whose cashier aisles use conveyor belts, having customers load all of their goods onto the far end of the belt can help maintain physical distance from the cashier.

IH expertise requested for N95 decontamination. N95decon.org, a group of engineers working to support groups who are adapting N95 respirator decontamination approaches for use in community hospitals, fire departments, and low-resource settings, seeks IH input to assist in designing and evaluating the N95 hygiene and handling protocols for these settings. Interested IHs who have, or can acquire, expertise to provide remote guidance to frontline medical professionals on considerations for handling SARS-CoV-2 N95 respirators are asked to contact Professor Amy Herr at the University of California-Berkeley.

Conserving elastomeric respirators. As supplies of N95 respirators run low in healthcare facilities overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, many are turning to other respiratory protection devices. Now, CDC has published strategies facilities can use to conserve elastomeric respirators, which are at least as protective as N95s and, in some cases, have a higher assigned protection factor. Read more.

NIH publishes treatment guidelines. A panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health has released treatment guidelines for COVID-19 based on published and preliminary data as well as the panelists’ expertise. The guidelines provide recommendations for diagnosis, infection control, and many other areas. Each recommendation is rated according to the strength of the recommendation and the quality of the evidence supporting it. Read the introduction for information about the rating scheme.

OSHA compliance officers to use “discretion” when enforcing standards. An April 16 OSHA memorandum to regional administrators advises agency compliance officers to use their discretion when enforcing OSHA standards due to the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

CDC updates FAQ on infection prevention and control. CDC has updated its FAQ page for infection prevention and control in healthcare settings to align with revised interim guidelines for treating patients with known or suspected COVID-19. The FAQ includes information about many topics including appropriate personal protective equipment for transporting patients, providing care to asymptomatic patients, cleaning and disinfecting patient rooms, and performing nasopharyngeal swabs.

Recommendations cover cleaning, disinfection for nonemergency vehicles. CDC's interim guidelines focus on passenger vans, accessible vans, and cars used to transport people who are known or suspected to have COVID-19. Read more.