COVID-19 Updates for Infection Preventionists

July 15, 2020

One news item: Hospitals will now be reporting COVID-19 information to the National Guard instead of to the CDC through the TeleTrack system within the Department of Health and Human Services.

There’s so much going on each day in terms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) news that it often feels overwhelming and challenging to piece together what is critically important for infection prevention efforts during these times. Below are some of the hot topics and news that has come up recently that as an infection preventionist, is important we are aware of and can respond to.

COVID-19 Reporting to CDC Through NHSN

While we have been utilizing the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN), it was announced yesterday that hospitals will no longer be reporting COVID-19 information through this system. As of Wednesday, this will be moved to a new system. Reportedly the plan is to have the National Guard collect this data instead of the CDC through the TeleTrack system within the Department of Health and Human Services. You can read the full report here, but it’s also important to note that “if hospitals were already reporting such information to their states, they could continue to do so if they received a written release saying the state would handle reporting.” As there is critical information within this process being reported about hospital capacity and the impact of the pandemic, the continued reporting and publicizing of this data will be critical.

CDC Interim IPC Recommendations

On July 9, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidance for infection prevention efforts against COVID-19. Per the CDC, they “clarified that the recommendations for universal use of eye protection (in addition to a face mask) for HCP working in facilities located in communities with moderate to sustained SARS-CoV-2 transmission is intended to ensure HCP eyes, nose, and mouth are all protected during patient care encounters.” While use of eye protection has been a part of personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations since May, this specified the use around local transmission. Ultimately, this means that as states are in various points in their COVID-19 activity within the community, universal eye protection requirements can reflect those fluctuations. For those in low community transmission areas, eye protection isn’t a recommendation for all healthcare workers. Whereas, those in areas with moderate to sustained local transmission should ensure all healthcare workers wear eye protection, regardless if they anticipate caring for COVID-19 patients. It’s likely this will be the first of many efforts to be implemented based on local transmission.

Testing Delays

As many states are seeing surges in cases, delays in testing are increasingly an issue. Some have reported beyond 7-10 days in results, which is deeply worrisome. These delays and challenges in obtaining test results not only delay contact tracing, but also require the person to stay home and isolate appropriately for a longer period of time if negative. As a result of these growing lags between testing and result notification, it is important that patients be given information on isolation during this time. This will often lead to frustration but communicating with patients the importance of home isolation during testing and that there might be delays is important. The CDC has helpful pages and resources to support people staying home during this process as well.