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COVID-19 Update: Guidance for Health Care Personnel, Testing

Amid rising instances of the new coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance for health care providers evaluating persons under investigation and new risk assessment guidelines for personnel exposed to the virus.

CDC reports that U.S. cases of COVID-19 have risen to 423, with 19 associated deaths.

The agency expanded its criteria for evaluating persons under investigation to include a wider variety of symptomatic patients. However, the agency ultimately defers to clinicians to use their judgment when administering tests and encourages clinicians to test for other causes of respiratory illness. Clinicians should test all patients and health care workers who have come in close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset or who have a history of travel from areas with sustained transmission, including China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea.

The agency also updated risk assessment guidance to allow asymptomatic health care personnel who have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient to continue to work after options to improve staffing have been exhausted and in consultation with their occupational health program. The guidance simplifies risk exposure categories based on the most common scenarios, focusing on the presence or absence of source control measures, the use of personal protective equipment by health care personnel, and the degree of patient contact.

The CDC recommends prioritizing testing among symptomatic older patients and individuals with underlying medical conditions or who are otherwise immunocompromised. Community recommendations for those at higher risk of serious illness from the virus include avoiding crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential air travel.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is soliciting proposals for advanced development and licensure of COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, or medicines such as therapeutics or antivirals.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the outbreak.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Emily Schweich is a senior communications associate for America's Essential Hospitals.

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