We all love a good two-for-one deal, especially around the holidays. With the vaccine becoming available, now is not the time to back down from precautions against COVID-19. Cases are at all-time highs, and cold weather means more time spent indoors. Complicating the pandemic, flu season is nearing its peak,1 which adds to the danger of communicable illness and may complicate employee health departments’ efforts to control Coronavirus.
Here’s the good news: the same steps we’re taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 also work to reduce transmission of the flu. That’s protection against two viruses for the price of one!
The spread of influenza is down this year following widespread adoption of basic precautions against COVID-19 according to early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2 Some of the story might be increased flu vaccination rates, but the authors suggest that social distancing, mask wearing, and other recommended safeguards have been a big part of the success story.
Here are five CDC-recommended steps3 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the flu at the same time:
1. Wear a mask over your mouth and nose. No cheating! When hospital-issued PPE isn’t available, washable, reusable cloth masks are great. Choose one with multiple layers of fabric that fits snugly to your face. It protects others from catching the virus from you if you don’t yet know you have it. It also provides you some protection from airborne droplets.
2. Wash your hands with soap and water. We do this anyway, right? Good habits during normal times include hand washing before eating or cooking, after using the restroom, and before and after caring for someone who’s ill or injured. During a pandemic it’s important to increase the frequency and wash hands after touching garbage, after touching a pet, and after coughing or sneezing. Wash for at least 20 seconds.
3. Keep distant from other people. Six feet can save a life. Avoid crowds and always stay at least two arm’s lengths (6 feet) from people you don’t live with. If you have to be around other people, it’s best if it’s outside, and be sure to wear a mask. When running errands, avoid busy times of day and choose spaces that are as well-ventilated as possible.
4. Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash. Keep it handy! When soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is an acceptable substitute that will kill most germs. Squirt some in your palm, spread it all over your hands and fingers, and rub them together for about 20 seconds, or until it dries.
5. Stay home and limit contact to immediate family. Who’s in your bubble? Missing friends and loved ones can be painful, but it’s better than the risk of serious illness, especially with older and more vulnerable relatives. Manage stress with self-care, exercise, and a healthy diet. The end of the pandemic is coming. We can do this!
In hospitals, employee health programs are more important than ever. Hospital personnel must model good mitigation habits and pass along clear, reliable messages about preventing the spread of infection.
Clinicians who manage employee health departments need to monitor who’s had the virus and who’s had the vaccine. Net Health’s Agility® software solution is a central tool to track compliance with regulations like vaccinations and exposures to infectious diseases. It even integrates with electronic medical records if desired.
It’s been a long pandemic, but the end is near. Stay safe, stay healthy and take care in 2021!
4 Things OccMed & Employee Health Departments Need to Know about COVID-19
An assessment of regulatory factors impacting compliance and support for staff
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Things to Know about the COVID-19 Pandemic,” December 17, 2020.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The Flu Season,” July 12, 2018.
3. Olsen, S et al., Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Decreased Influenza Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, Australia, Chile, and South Africa, 2020,” September 18, 2020.