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COVID-19 and Emerging Respiratory Viruses

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) 

As per recommendations by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), respiratory samples collected for Influenza/RSV testing at all VCH sites will also be tested for COVID-19 and vice versa.

Recommended samples types for COVID-19 testing are:
  • Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab or bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) for clinically stable patients or outpatients.
  • NP swab and a lower respiratory specimen (sputum/tracheal aspirate/BAL) for admitted critically ill patients.
  • Nasopharyngeal swab collection - how to guide 
Samples requested for COVID-19 testing from VGH inpatients and VGH Emergency will be tested at VGH. Testing will take place 7 days per week, and consist of a minimum of 4 runs per day as sample volumes require. Samples requested for COVID-19 testing from all  long term care centers, staff and physician satellite testing centers, as well as all samples from Lionsgate Hospital, Whistler, Squamish, and Pemberton will tested at St. Paul's Hospital. The testing schedule for St. Paul's Hospital will be determined by St. Paul's Hospital. 

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of enveloped viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe disease.  There is currently a new strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the infection responsible for a respiratory outbreak first identified in China.   

Routine Practices for environmental infection control, including VCH-approved products for cleaning and disinfection, are effective and recommended for enveloped viruses such as COVID-19.   In addition to infection control strategies that include early identification and source control with Droplet & Contact Precautions, Routine Practices that support using appropriate hand hygiene and personal protective equipment following a point of care risk assessment, respiratory etiquette, patient placement, waste management and cleaning and disinfection further prevent transmission of COVID-19. 

Patient Care Equipment

  • Dedicate all reusable equipment to patients on Droplet and Contact precautions for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 whenever possible. Items that cannot be dedicated must be discarded/sent home with the patient or cleaned and disinfected with a VCH-approved product prior to use with another patient.  
  • Patient care equipment includes any item that will come into direct contact with the patient or their immediate environment, e.g., equipment and supplies, toys, books/magazines, electronic devices (tablets), and personal belongings. Refer to the VCH Master Equipment Cleaning Manual for specific direction.   
  • Single-use disposable equipment & supplies should be discarded after use. 

Environmental Cleaning

  • VCH routine cleaning procedures for Droplet & Contact Precautions are recommended for daily and terminal cleaning of patient care areas with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
  • VCH routine environmental cleaning procedures include twice daily cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces in emergency departments for the duration of influenza season.

Handling Linen, Dishes and Cutlery

  • No special precautions are recommended; routine practices are sufficient.
  • Disposable dishes are not required.  Regular food trays, dishes and utensils can be used for all patients on Additional Precautions.   
  • Handle soiled linen with minimal agitation and place directly in linen bag without sorting.  Do not overfill bags. 

Waste Management

  • No special precautions are recommended; routine practices are sufficient.
  • Wear gloves to remove waste from patient/treatment rooms.   Remove gloves and perform hand hygiene.
  • Dispose of sharps immediately after use in a puncture-proof, biohazard container.
  • Segregate biomedical waste per VCH policy. 

Patients/residents admitted to a VCH facility with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should be restricted to their room and not participate in group activities until COVID-19 is ruled out or as directed by IPAC.

Patient/resident movement and transport should be restricted to essential diagnostic tests and therapeutic treatments. Transfer within and between facilities should be avoided unless medically indicated, as this may place others at risk for exposure.  

If transfer is medically indicated:

  • Notify Infection Prevention and Control and the receiving unit/department
  • Provide clean clothes/gown/bedding on leaving their room  
  • Assist patient/resident with donning a procedure mask and performing hand hygiene on leaving their room
  • Designate a staff member to accompany patient/resident
    • Accompanying staff member should use Droplet and Contact Precautions when in patient room, then remove personal protective equipment (PPE) on exit from the room and perform hand hygiene. Don clean PPE for transport (within 1 meter of patient).

 Adapted from PHAC (2020) Infection prevention and control for coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Interim guidance for acute healthcare settings

Pandemic Planning 

SOURCE: COVID-19 and Emerging Respiratory Viruses ( )
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