Infection Preventionists Must Be Included on COVID Taskforce

November 16, 2020
Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC
Saskia v. Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC

IPs have not only that frontline experience, but also the ability to pivot and evolve with recommendations. In fact, our very jobs are about translating continuously evolving evidence and guidance into practice.

The United States is currently experiencing the worst it’s seen in COVID-19 cases. As of November 14th, there have been well over 160,000 cases a day, with nearly 70,000 Americans hospitalized. Deaths are climbing and hospitals are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. The daily case counts are drastically higher than what we’ve seen since the pandemic began and the hospitalizations are growing at a rate that is deeply worrisome for setting records.

With data moving in this direction and an already weary and exhausting healthcare and public health workforce, there is growing concern for the holidays and colder months. Pandemic fatigue though isn’t just a problem within the response community, but also one that we worry about within the public as we are utterly reliant on them to continue masking, distancing, and other prevention strategies. Community-based infection prevention guidance is needed now more than ever. Consider the holidays and those you know who might be wanting to have large gatherings—is there guidance you can share on social media or other avenues to help provide safer options?

The truth is that this third wave will likely be much worse than what we’ve already seen and will likely last longer due to the holidays and cold months pushing people inside. If January is suggested as the peak, that means we need to hunker down and find a sustainable approach to managing the infection prevention and control aspects of COVID-19 response without letting the day-to-day work fall aside. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) still happen, even if the hospital census is low due to elective surgery cancellations. Many of us saw spikes in central-line associated bloodstream infections (CLASBIs) in COVID-19 patients, which will require additional attention as more patients require hospitalization and care—hospitalizations after all, are a lagging indicator.

This very finding and the nuances of COVID-19 response is also why as the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Taskforce is being developed and teams created; there should be an infection preventionist (IP) on board. The current taskforce is robust and diverse, which is desperately needed for a more national response to this current wave and pandemic. From physicians to public health advocates, the current taskforce will do well to help build up a stronger national approach to the pandemic. That being said, these are going to require considerable efforts and expertise, which is where an IP would fit in nicely.

IPs have not only that frontline experience, but also the ability to pivot and evolve with recommendations. In fact, our very jobs are about translating continuously evolving evidence and guidance into practice. One can hope that one of the taskforce teams will include an IP, but ultimately this sheds light on the growing awareness around our roles and importance in pandemic response.

Moving forward, it would serve not only hospitals, but also the generalized response well to include IPs and our programs into the very fabric of national pandemic response plans. Our roles as IPs will also need to inherently change within the field—this must include more emergency preparedness and overall pandemic preparedness.