About the Coronavirus Outbreak
“COVID-19,” a new coronavirus, has been identified as the cause of a cluster of severe pneumonia cases that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. Thousands of contacts are under observation and hundreds of cases have been confirmed in Wuhan. Additional cases have been identified in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.
The virus is a coronavirus, which is a large family of viruses that can infect animals and/or humans. COVID-19 is similar to the viruses that cause SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Symptoms include fever and/or symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as coughing or difficulty breathing. With some viruses, the infectious period precedes symptoms and with other viruses it coincides with symptoms.
Human-to-human transmission is confirmed. However, whether the disease is transmitted via contact, droplet, or aerosol remains unknown. It is also unknown whether asymptomatic cases are infectious.
Employers Must Prepare to Keep Workers Safe
There is often debate about what actions to take and when they should be taken in situations where knowledge is lacking about a specific health threat. Employers often prioritize saving money over safe care and wait to act. Delay in action is unacceptable.
Please see the links below for the most up-to-date information on this rapidly evolving situation.
• World Health Organization (WHO) Situation Reports
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coronavirus Situation Summary
• U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Overview
• European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s Worldwide Situation Update
Advice for Healthcare Workers
Hospitals and other healthcare employers have the duty and responsibility to prepare ahead of time to protect staff and patients by following the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle states that we should not wait until we know for sure that something is harmful before we take action to protect people’s health. Your employer should prepare now, before a possible COVID-19 case arrives at your facility.
Employers can prepare by implementing the following:
• Provide training and education about the virus and how to recognize potential cases.
• Implement screening protocols to promptly identify patients with symptoms and travel history or exposure history that mean the patient may have a COVID-19 infection.
• Ensure prompt isolation of patients with possible or suspected cases of COVID-19. These patients should be placed in airborne infection isolation rooms whenever possible until COVID-19 has been ruled out or the patient has recovered.
• Maintain airborne infection isolation rooms so that they provide protection to staff and patients
• Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care workers providing care to patients with possible COVID-19 infections. PPE should include N95 respirators plus covering of the eyes or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRS) as well as gloves, gowns, and other PPE for droplet and aerosol precautions.
• Place sufficient staff to provide care to patients safely.
Additional Resources & Information
A Message from IP Martinez on the COVID-19 Crisis
We Want to Hear About Our IAM Heroes
AFL-CIO COVID-19 Flyer
IAM EAP and Addiction Services Program Remains Available to Membership During COVID-19 Crisis
Union Plus Offering Hardship Assistance