What You Need to Know about COVID-19

By Madison Pittman

There is so much information circulating via various media outlets concerning the coronavirus Here’s a quick recap of the scientific information that has been published to date provided by Naomi Smith, M.Sc. of Infectious Diseases and Global Health.

COVID-19 is a new strain of virus originating from the bat’s Coronavirdae family. Scientists have identified the closest relative of the novel COVID-19, SARS BatCov RaTG13 at a 96% genetic similarity. The RNA in the Coronaviridae family are notorious for mutating constantly, as well as causing clinical symptomatic shifts from gastrointestinal to severe respiratory ailments. Due to the unique genetic composition of this virus, it easily binds to the respiratory cells, thus causing the severe respiratory problems associated with the disease.

Currently, the United States is seeing cases rise dramatically. As of April 13, 2020, 95 state and local public health labs in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico have successfully verified and are currently using CDC COVID-19 diagnostic tests[1]. These tests allow persons of interest (PUI) to be rapidly tested in order for healthcare providers to optimize care and safety for the patient, the environment, and the general population[2].

Why is this such a public health concern for everyone? Well, a couple of factors are responsible for the CDC’s guidelines for COVID-19. First and foremost, at a national level, the US is facing a tremendous increase in cases which are overwhelming ICUs and other critical care units in hospitals. This overcrowding is preventing patients with other conditions from staying in the same unit or getting the care they need, thereby jeopardizing their health care. The second concern pertains to the overworked, understaffed, and overwhelmed medical staff who are trying to maintain healthcare standards. Providers are running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) which protects patients and the medical providers. This is the major reason why public health and government officials are urging people to stay at home, keep a 6-foot distance, “do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker – use cloth face masks[3],” disinfect surfaces, no more than 10 people in one vicinity, and arguably most important, wash hands. More people getting sick means more people will be in hospitals. In a nut-shell, public health agencies are looking to prevent a highly contagious disease from becoming endemic in the population. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19[4].

Coronavirus research suggests that COVID-19 can be stable on surfaces at room temperature for roughly 4+ days. This is concerning due to the fact that many healthy humans are asymptomatic (no symptoms) but are still shedding the virus in public and touching fomites (objects or materials which are likely to carry infection). This is also why people should remain at home as much as necessary. Hands are the main way to contract an illness due to the high volume of fomite contact. If you happen to expose yourself by going out, you should be vigilant of what you touch. For instance, when you open a door with your bare hands, you clearly do not want to touch your face afterwards. You also do not want to touch a doorknob with your sleeve since infectious diseases can reside on soft surfaces too. However, you can wash your hands while you may have to wear the contaminated shirt for the rest of the day, possibly transmitting it elsewhere or back to your hands. In this case, using your bare hands would be safer as long as you take the necessary precautions to not contaminate yourself by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. When you get to the nearest sink, then perform proper hand hygiene.

The best practice for hand hygiene is to wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap[5]. The most important part of hand hygiene is to lather with soap covering the entire area of your hands, under nails, back of hands, and under jewelry for 20 seconds, rinse your hands, and dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them. The important part of cleaning your hands is the actual mechanical removal of the germ. Soap breaks down the oils that are on your hands or loosens up the contact between pathogens and your skin, the water then washes away the loose debris, so your hands are clean. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can[6]. With rubbing alcohol, an actual chemical reaction is created from the alcohol when it comes in contact with organisms, plus the mechanical rubbing of hands together also loosens debris, and the length of stay that the alcohol is on hands will contribute to sanitizing your hands. Rubbing alcohol has to cover the entire surface of your hands and be damp/wet in order to be effective. It is suggested that the dispense should be a quarter size. Apply and rub hands together until hands feel dry. This should take around 20 seconds. Do not rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it’s dry; it may not work as well against germs. In summary, the best defense against contracting the COVID-19 virus is to stay isolated, but if you do go out, wash your hands often and thoroughly while practicing social distancing.

The Clean Hands – Safe Hands system is helping patients and providers in hospitals, who are obviously unable to isolate, stay safe. When a provider enters the room of a patient, they are typically required to sanitize before approaching the patient. Sometimes when providers are busy, they forget this life saving task. Fortunately, the system’s Natural Language Voice Reminder™ gently reminds providers if they forget. The Clean Hands – Safe Hands system is adaptable for unique situations like COVID-19 isolation rooms and works with both soap and alcohol-based sanitizer.

Ideally everyone would be able to stay home and safe from COVID-19, but that’s not the case. To learn more about being a hospital leader with an IoT system to combat the coronavirus, contact Clean Hands – Safe Hands.   

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html#anchor_1582494216224

[2] https://www.fda.gov/media/134922/download

[3] https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus

[4] https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/fact-sheets.html

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/pdf/hand-sanitizer-factsheet.pdf


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