Coronavirus update from our medical director
Christopher Kolimas, MD
ProHealth Care’s Occupational Health Services team has assembled some information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA to help support you and your employees. The information is designed to assist you as you make decisions related to the health and wellness of your workforce in light of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person – either by close contact (within 6 feet of one another) or through respiratory droplets produced and spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The CDC recommends that patients with COVID-19 be isolated at home or in the hospital (depending on how sick they are) until they no longer pose a risk of infecting others. This period of time may be 2-3 weeks from onset of illness.
General guidance for all U.S. workers and employers
All workers, regardless of their specific exposure risks, should always:
- Wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and running water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol should be used. Employees should always wash hands that are visibly soiled with soap and water.
- Avoid touching their faces, especially their eyes, noses, or mouths, with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover their mouths and noses with tissues when they cough or sneeze.
- Throw used tissues in a lined trash can – and wash their hands.
COVID-19 testing is generally not recommended for individuals with no symptoms or for return to work purposes.
Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after exposure, and include:
- Shortness of breath
If an employee has symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID-19, the person should stay home except to get medical care:
- People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate themselves at home during their illness. Activities outside of the home should be restricted, except for getting medical care.
- People with symptoms or known exposure should not go to work, school or public areas.
- Public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis should not be used.
If medical care is needed, employees should call their primary care provider.
- A primary care provider can conduct a screening by phone and provide guidance for self-care or make a referral for additional care if needed.
- Virtual visits offer an easy way for people to get advice and evaluation, without leaving their homes. Employees can learn more at ProHealthCare.org/VirtualVisit.
- If an office visit at a clinic or other medical facility is required, people should put a facemask on when they enter the building. This will offer protection for staff and other patients by minimizing exposure and infection.
Immediate medical attention is necessary if a person with suspected COVID-19, with cough and fever, is experiencing shortness of breath with rapid or labored breathing.
Always call 911 if there is a medical emergency.
If a medical emergency occurs and 911 is called, emergency dispatch personnel should be notified if it is believed that COVID-19 may be involved in a person with breathing difficulty. Placing a mask on the sick person’s face may help lessen the chance of spread of the virus to others. However, such a mask may also cause more breathing difficulty in that person. Therefore, if the sick person is having labored breathing it may be best to hold off on placing a mask on that person’s face until oxygen is supplied first. Any person who is in close proximity to the sick employee should be wearing a mask.
If you have any questions, you can contact me at 262-928-5900. ProHealth is also staffing a coronavirus hotline 24/7 to make it easy for patients and community members to access the resources needed to make informed health decisions. Your employees can call 262-928-4499 to get answers and advice.