Resurgence of COVID-19 cases has led to areas of the country having to reinstate social distancing and shelter-in-place requirements. In hotspots throughout the nation, counties with significant spikes of cases are responding by closing public spaces, cancelling large gatherings, and enforcing mask rules. Meanwhile, other parts of the country are seeing slowing cases as they gradually open up. The hotspots, in many ways, are experiencing a bit of what it is like to be in an isolation room in a hospital. In today's post, we'll look at what our national scenario can tell us about hospital isolation.
Hospitals serve a variety of patients, some more gravely ill than others. For those patients with an infectious disease, or with an immune system that cannot handle even a minor infection, the use of isolation rooms can help keep everyone in the hospital safer. Depending on the situation, the isolation room can simply be a regular patient room but with more strict personal protection equipment (PPE) usage or something more. For the sickest or most vulnerable patients, an isolation room in a separate part of the hospital may use advanced techniques such as negative air pressure, donning and doffing rooms, biocidal surfaces and completely separate water supply. How does this compare with our nation's current scenario with COVID-19?
The Nation as Hospital | Imagine the entire nation as a hospital. As a whole, we are taking precautions to stay healthy and protect our loved ones. We are washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, covering our coughs and being careful not to share cups and other tools. We clean our homes and workspaces thoroughly with specific cleaners, and more often. This is just like the standard hygiene practices in a hospital, where environmental services clean rooms and public areas using EPA-registered cleaners and where health care staff wash hands religiously and wear PPE as needed.
Vulnerable Citizens as Isolated Patients | For some of us, especially the elderly or immuno-compromised among us, venturing out brings with it its own dangers, even before COVID-19. During the pandemic, being careful to avoid infection is even more important. When a hospital admits a vulnerable patient, he or she may be assigned to an isolation room just to keep the patient safe from pathogens that could lead to an infection. That is the same idea behind stay-at-home recommendations for the elderly, newborns, and individuals with chronic conditions. And when healthy folks know they are going to be around vulnerable people, they should do as the healthcare workers do and ramp up the PPE by wearing face masks.
The Hot Spots as Isolation Rooms | Some parts are dealing with more intense spikes of COVID-19, and these areas have to enforce more strict regulations in order to keep the outbreak in check. Just as the medical care for a patient with an infectious disease has to ramp up the infection prevention measures, so do these hotspots. In a hospital, this would mean PPE for every person entering the room, specialized disinfectants for cleaning surfaces, more frequent cleaning, and reduction of contact with healthcare workers. For COVID-19 hotspots, it means universal masking orders, more aggressive cleaning requirements for public areas, and social distancing measures. In both situations, you want to contain the pathogen and reduce opportunities for spread.
Anyone who works in healthcare knows that isolation is not easy, either for the patient or the medical staff. Isolation makes patients uneasy, makes them feel threatened - or threatening - and studies even show that isolation comes with its own set of drawbacks. All of us can understand that now. With COVID-19 social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, we have all suffered the consequence. We miss our family and friends. We miss going wherever we want, whenever we want. In many ways, this exhausting routine has led to some of the risky behaviors associated with COVID-19 spikes across the country - people just want to get out and have fun. We encourage everyone to remember that our behavior has an impact beyond our own health and safety - and we don't want to be in isolation from the world until there is a vaccine. So let's all follow our local guidelines and stay out of isolation!