Updated August 4 at 12:40p.m.
A relative of mine has COVID and her only symptom is an “allergy” like cold. She sounds congested but has no fever. Her husband was positive with similar symptoms so she was tested and came up positive for it. With cold/flu season coming up, what should employees do when a patient comes in with similar “allergy-like” symptoms and no fever? What if we experience it ourselves…do we come in to work?
Each case is individual, but a good rule of thumb is:
- If you are exposed (such as a family member or someone who have had unmasked contact with testing positive), you should consider the possibility that you also may have been exposed or may be potentially positive. We suggest consulting with your primary care physician and quarantining.
- Many people have little to no symptoms, so anything that is not “normal” for that individual should always make them consider the possibility of having been exposed. For example, if you suffer from allergies normally the same time every year with the same symptoms versus not having allergy related issues and then all of a sudden have congestion or runny nose – then consult your physician.
- If people are following the guidelines (wearing a mask over both the mouth and nose, distancing away from others when eating and drinking, washing hands) then this will reduce the risk of any transmission, especially with those who have little to no symptoms.
- Continue to ask yourself the questions everyday… Have you been exposed? Are you having any symptoms? Are you running a fever?
- Bottom line… if you do not feel well, do not come to work. Reach out to your primary provider for guidance and possible testing.
How long and who will continue to do the screening processes when we start doing more elective procedures?
We do not have a definitive date for how long those will continue; however, we intend to keep them in place as we transition to once again performing elective procedures. We understand that many staff who were previously in the screening roles may be required in their department with the gradual return to increased volumes. Your normal role will take priority, and our team is working on an alternative plan for staffing the screening checkpoints and/or virtual waiting rooms.
How long will the current precautions go on for (i.e. masks, travel bans, temperature checks, etc.)?
We do not have a definitive end date for these precautions, although it is likely that they will continue for at least the next several weeks at a minimum.
Should staff be concerned about exposure with increased patient volumes when working in the OR or PACU?
The safety of our patients and staff members is the number one priority, and we will be taking additional precautions as we transition back to elective surgeries. For example, our team is planning for several modifications in the OR and PACU specifically to maintain greater social distancing and minimize the potential risk of spread due to aerosolization.
Are there any plans to test staff for the COVID-19 antibodies?
Currently, the test for antibodies is not readily available. It is also not very specific and gives false negatives, at this time. However, there is a lot of work being done to improve the testing specificity, as well as increasing it’s availability. Once it is available we will be having discussions as to it’s appropriate use with staff and patients.
There have been a few staff members that have failed the N95 mask fit testing. What is the next step for these staff members who have failed the N-95 fittings?
We continually monitor our pass/fail rate and our rates are within the expected ranges for qualitative testing that we do onsite. Our procedure for next steps for those who fail initial fit testing is to do an additional fit test using a quantitative machine – which is done offsite at another facility. After additional testing is complete, we will determine the most appropriate options for each individual.
If an employee cannot afford the 5% cut in pay, can they file for unemployment benefits?
Possibly. See below.
What role does OrthoNebraska play in determining if I should file for unemployment?
If you are interested in filing for unemployment, for any reason, you should work directly with the Nebraska Department of Labor Unemployment office. You do not need permission from OrthoNebraska or to even notify OrthoNebraska that you have filed or plan to file. If the unemployment office needs any information from OrthoNebraska they will contact us directly.
What instructions on applying for Unemployment Insurance can OrthoNrbaska give to current/former employees?
OrthoNebraska directs current/former employees to NEworks.nebraska.gov or the NEworks mobile app to file an unemployment claim. There are step by-step instructions on how to file a claim at dol.nebraska.gov/uibenefits.
What should a current/former employee do if they are not sure if they qualify or not for unemployment benefits
OrthoNebraska does not make determinations on who qualifies to receive unemployment. Again, if you are unsure if you qualify, go to NEworks.nebraska.gov and file.
Who can current/former employees contact at the unemployment office if they have questions?
As an employee who is seeing patients, are we notified of possible exposures from patients?
If a patient comes through our facility and is later identified as potentially contagious with COVID-19 at the time of their visit the health department would contact OrthoNebraska and let us know of the potential risk. At that point, we would do a contact tracing to find out which employees came in contact with that patient. If the contact is considered a potential exposure, based upon our exposure evaluation, we would then contact the employee and let them know and advise them of the precautions they should take. If the exposure would be considered a high exposure, meaning face-to-face contact for more than 10 minutes without personal protective equipment, then the employee would be asked to quarantine themselves for a specific period of time.
Is OrthoNebraska eligible for some of the federal and local paycheck protection programs?
Yes! This question was answered on the April 10 Virtual Forum. CLICK HERE to view it.
With more and more hot spots popping up, are we revising our precautions regarding travel?
This is a great question. We are strongly encouraging the use of virtual visits for patients coming from areas that are experiencing a rise in COVID-19 positives. Our leadership team and providers are continuing to meet on this topic to make further revisions.
The clinics (orthopedic, physical therapy, imaging, etc.) still seem pretty busy considering everything that is going on. Are there any other plans to further scale these back?
We continue to see a decrease in clinic patient numbers, even more so as we get further and further into this pandemic locally. But this kind of feedback is appreciated, and we want to make a few things clear:
- Virtual Care is a growing focus. Our teams are getting as many patients out of the clinic as possible by encouraging this service. In fact, a number of orthopedic providers have moved nearly their entire practice to exclusively telehealth, or virtual care.
- We have implemented many precautionary measures for the safety of patients, providers and staff including virtual parking lots, several screenings ahead of time and upon arrival, changing appointment blocking to spread out visits, and masking employees.
- One of OrthoNebraska’s roles as an ambulatory specialty setting is to keep healthy patients needing orthopedic care out of high-risk environments.
- We have postponed hundreds of elective cases, and instead of provided non-operative care techniques for those patients to get them thru until this changes.
Will we start limiting visitors that come with patients?
Yes. See our updated visitor policy.
What are we doing about employees that have spouses or significant others that work at other hospitals/clinics across town that may have contact with COVID-19 patients? Are those employees being quarantined?
Hospitals and clinics around the world are taking extra precautions to limit their team member’s exposure – much like OrthoNebraska. Anyone who suspects a family member may have been exposed should distance themselves from that family member. This might include sleeping in separate rooms or watching television across the room from each other.
What is the proper procedure for an employee if their spouse has traveled out of state via plane?
For employees who live with individuals who have traveled out of state via mass transit, we ask that you distance yourself away from that family member for fourteen (14) days. This means keeping six-feet apart while in the same room, sleeping in separate bedrooms, etc. In addition, you should be monitoring yourself and your family for any symptoms.
I am over the age of 60 and/or have an underlying condition. What should I do?
The CDC has identified high-risk categories as older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease). If you fall in this category and are concerned about working, we encourage you to contact your health care provider for further guidance. If you are unable to fulfill the essentials functions of your job, please contact your manager and human resources and we will discuss accommodations to reduce your risk of exposure. If you are asymptomatic, you are expected to come to work.
We are doing procedures today that do not seemed critical or considered an emergency? Why continue doing them?
Upon last week’s announcement of temporarily suspending surgical cases that would not cause significant detriment to a patient, OrthoNebraska immediately deployed a medical review team that consists of our CMO, Anesthesia, Hospitalists, and Nursing Leadership. This team is reviewing each scheduled procedure, case-by-case, to determine the appropriate care path for each patient. This review process, along with our enhanced medical requirement criteria during this COVID 19 pandemic, has resulted in the majority of our cases being postponed until a future date.
As always, OrthoNebraska is 100% committed to helping our patients that are in need of orthopedic care. For those individuals with orthopedic conditions that should be addressed now due to their unique personal situation, we will still be providing the exceptional care that they need to move forward with their lives.
Why are we using up PPE’s that should be saved for pandemic care?
OrthoNebraska has adjusted many of our surgical practices to extend the life of our medical supplies in a safe and efficient manner. We have also extended our PPE inventory to other family practice clinics within the Oakview Medical Office Building. This includes patients, visitors, and employees that benefit from access to our resources (medical supplies and volunteers) as part of our campus wide screening process.